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Viewing May 3, 1999, through many eyes

BY JAMES S. TYREE Modified: May 2, 2009 at 11:02 am •  Published: May 2, 2009
NORMAN — Meteorologists spent Friday explaining the big May 3, 1999, tornado with cutting-edge technology; emergency managers did so with disaster plans and equipment. Amber Murphy trumped them with a coffee mug and her parents.

Murphy was the last of four people who shared personal impact stories during the May 3 Tornado Outbreak 10th Anniversary Event held at the National Weather Center.

Murphy is a Midwest City resident who lived in Bridge Creek next to her parents 10 years ago.

She recalled coming home and seeing their houses wiped out, and then "the most beautiful thing ... was seeing my parents covered in mud with my brother at my grandparents’ house.”

Despite losing virtually all of her possessions, Murphy told the audience she would live through the experience again if given the choice.

It inspired her to become an individual assistance worker with Oklahoma Emergency Management because she understands what disaster survivors go through.

"Everything I owned could fit in this coffee cup,” she said while clutching the mug.

"I keep this as a constant reminder each day of the value of a toothbrush. When I was handed a toothbrush and realized it was mine, you couldn’t pry it away from me for all the money in the world.”

What we’ve learned
Steve Couch, former assistant principal at Moore Central Junior High School, Mulhall Mayor Jack McAnally, and former Haysville, Kan., Mayor Tim Norton also spoke.

Couch, who now works at Moore Norman Technology Center, said the tornado and its aftermath taught Moore educators several lessons, including not to store everything in one place, planning what to do after a disaster and not just during one, and staying mindful of a disaster’s psychological impact on students.

He also said it’s important to pass those lessons on to future students.


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