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Tornado survivor tells story of heroism

Kyle Hinchey Published: June 5, 2013
Eric and June Simson of Oklahoma City discuss their experience in the May 20th tornado. The tornado ripped through the Westmoor housing addition and left their home destroyed. Photo by, Aliki Dyer, The Oklahoman
Eric and June Simson of Oklahoma City discuss their experience in the May 20th tornado. The tornado ripped through the Westmoor housing addition and left their home destroyed. Photo by, Aliki Dyer, The Oklahoman

A disaster response team made its way to each ruined house in South OKC’s Westmoor neighborhood, frantically trying to figure out who was home when the May 20 tornado hit. Eric Simson’s neighbors relayed to the response team who was missing.

“Because we all knew each other and we all met up so quickly, we could say, ‘That house is empty. Those people are gone. I just got a text from the people over there. Don’t know about those ones,’ and so we were able to do a real quick headcount on our street,” he said.

Quick thinking saved lives and time, allowing first responders to quickly move on to other neighborhoods in need of help.

Some of the newer residents have vowed to not come back, but Eric said many, including he and his wife, June, plan to rebuild once the rubble is cleared.

The two, who were at work when about 90 percent of their community was destroyed, have spent 22 years living in Westmoor. June said they aren’t ready to leave it for somewhere that, for all they know, could be the site of the next disaster.

“There is no safe place in the metro area,” she said. “I’ve lived here all my life. If you look at any of the surrounding areas, you’ll see nothing is safe. So if people think they can run from one side of town to the other side of town and get away from storms, that’s not going to happen.”

BY KYLE HINCHEY

Staff Writer

khinchey@opubco.com