Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Recovering in Moore

I have promised a full account as to the time line from Monday on. So here goes!

Monday, I was having a slow morning. I was reading my email and just kind of poking around. The only thing on my calendar was to pick up Tyler (my 8 year old grandson) after school and then the 3 year old from Day Care. The baby was to be picked up from the Day Care at 4 for an appointment, so I had no need to get him.

I had been trying to get into the beauty salon for more than a week, so I texted asking when I would be able to get in. There was only 3 more days of school and I wanted to get in before then, so that I would not have to take the 8 year old Tyler with me.

The response was, "Could I be there in 15 minutes?) So I headed out the door.

The salon is in the same plaza as the Day Care, so I decided after my salon appointment, to go ahead and get the 3 year old. It was roughly 2 PM. Once I was inside the Day Care, one of the teacher's came into the room and urged me to take the baby as well, because they were watching the weather and were about to start calling parents to pick up children.

Once I had the 2 little ones strapped into car seats, I headed to Plaza Tower Elementary to pick up Tyler. Half way there, they came on the radio and announced that there was a tornado coming down and to take shelter immediately. They gave the location and it was very near to where I was at.

At that point, I realized that I would not be able to get Tyler and I needed to get the 2 that I had, into a shelter.  I drove as fast as I could to my home, where I had a large tornado shelter.

It was pouring rain as I made the dash towards home. Several times, I considered stopping and running into a business, but in the end, keep driving.

The road was blocked at Highland East Middle School, by parents trying to get their kids. No one could get through either direction. I skirted into a neighborhood and and using my GPS, I was able to work my way out, back onto 4th street, but on the other side of Highland East.

As I pulled into my garage, I told the 3 year old that I needed him to help me keep the baby safe and that when I unbuckled his car seat, he was to run as fast as he could to the backdoor and wait for me.

He asked if he could run real fast (a no-no in our house) and I told him, "yes."

Now in the house, I stopped only to grab a flashlight. The 3 year old waited on the covered porch as I opened and climbed into the shelter with the baby, my purse and a bag of supplies that I had previously packed. The 3 year old then ran to me and I helped him into the shelter. And then I locked the shelter door down.

I few minutes later, I received a call from my husband asking me if I was in the shelter. He was in Alaska visiting our son, who is stationed there. Rick was watching an Oklahoma channel live and knew that what was going on. I let him know that I had the 2 younger children, but had been unable to get Tyler. Our daughter, who is a single mother, often works at the Moore Medical Center, but on that day, she was at the Norman branch.

I then waited.

Eventually, I heard a swishing sound, but nothing like the sound that I had heard then a tornado went over our house a few years back. Shortly thereafter, I heard the sirens of emergency vehicles.

My neighbors and I emerged. We found some debris, but thought that Moore had dodged a bullet and that all was fine. My power was out, so we were not able to catch any news reports.

After the storm passed, my daughter called (I could receive calls, but could not call out, due to cell towers being damaged) and asked who I had with me and if everyone was OK. I relayed that I had the 2 little ones, and that where was no damage here and we were fine.

Lindsay was about to run out the door to leave work to head over and get Tyler, when a co-worker got up, turned the radio off, and asked my daughter to pray with her. She had heard about the school and did not want my daughter to hear how bad it was. Lindsay then left with a co-worker driving her.

Lindsay and Heidi are RN's and were in scrubs, because of that, they were able to get into the disaster area, fairly quickly. Tyler had been walked with many of the students to a nearby church with a big parking area, to await parents.

When Lindsay seen Tyler, he had blood on him. That blood turned out not to be Tyler's. His teacher told how Tyler had helped calm other children and that he had helped another child by holding his arm in place. We believe that his arm was broken and Tyler had held it together for him.

Lindsay called and let me know that she had Tyler and that he was safe and that it was real bad. It was not until later that we learned that the children who had died, were in the same hallway with Tyler.

Lindsay then went to her house. She lived right across from the Moore Medical Center, which was destroyed. Her street was not much more than rubble. Her house had a sink embedded in the roof. Her bedroom windows had been blown out so strongly that the bedroom was blown off and was in her front yard. The water from the pool had been emptied into the bedroom. We later found a desk from one of the schools in the pool.

A male friend of Lindsay's was at her house before her. He had pulled a deceased infant from the nearby 7-11. He and another guy carried the family to the pump area, so that they could be taken to the morgue. He took his shirt off to cover the baby with. I won't tell the details of the condition of the baby. It is very graphic.

While all of this is going on, my husband, up in Alaska knew that Tyler's school was hit and that Tlyer was in it. He was going crazy with worry. He keep calling me (not mentioning that Plaza Towers had been hit) asking about Tyler. It was a while before he heard that Tyler was safe.

Lindsay and Heidi then went to the hospital to see if they could help. The hospital had all the help that they needed so they headed to my house.

The friend had Tyler and was trying to get him to me. Lindsay arrived about 7ish. Again, they were able to get around because they are nurses. Mike was not as fortune getting around. It was almost midnight before they arrived at my house. The traffic was in gridlock with all the roads covered in debris.

We were without power for 2 days and did not get internet or cable for almost week. It is hard to complain about these things in light of all the destruction.

We continue to find small injuries on Tyler. He had a rock embedded in his earlobe and thousands of tiny pebbles embedded in his head. He has lots of bruises.

The Day Care Center that the younger 2 children had been in, is also gone. They had 13 children and several teachers left when the tornado hit. The teachers took the children into a bathroom and laid on top of them. All teachers suffered some injuries and some of the children had minor injuries.

The Moore Medical Center is destroyed. All of Lindsay's co-workers that were in that building are safe, but badly shaken. All of their cars are totaled. One of cars can not even be found.

The tornado was only on the ground for 16 minutes. On a normal day, it is about a 20 minute drive from the Day Care Center to my house. Plaza Towers Elementary was in between the Day Care Center and my home.

Gray lines are the path of the tornado. Yellow shows the area that was damaged. Red area is extreme damage.

The red circle with the #1 beside it, is the Day Care that the 2 little boys went to.
Red circle #2 is Plaza Towers Elementary School
Red circle #3 is Lindsay's house
Red circle #4 is my house

You can see that the Day Care Center and Plaza Towers Elementary were in the extreme area.

I did not go out for almost a full week; as my job was to take care of my daughter's 3 children. I had not realized until later, how close it got to my house. The tornado veered North about 2 blocks from me or my house also would have been hit.

We are blessed, it was so close for all of us. Minutes and feet literally made a difference for our family.

You can see Tyler and Lindsay's interview here. Sorry, you will have to get through the Moore liquor store bit first.

On May 31st another tornado hit Moore again. This time there was not as much damage, but the house belonging to Tyler's father, burned down to the ground on that night. I am not sure what caused it to catch fire, but there was a lot of lightning that night. My church also had a window brake during the second bout of tornadoes.

In and among the horror and grief, we have had some light moments, such as the 3 year old exclaiming that the tornado spilled  the pool and Tyler being told to get out of the house what was most important to him first, and he grabbed a can of Vienna sausage.

Every disaster relief church that we went to, gave us Vienna sausage for him.

It has been a rough 2 weeks, but we have seen the best of people helping us from all over the world.

With your help, we will rebuild Moore. It really is a wonderful community. The residents have a strong bond to one another that only such a disaster can forge.

Thank you to everyone who helped or prayed for us. Your outpouring has meant so much. You have made it possible for us to hope.


Some people have asked me about where to send donations to help Lindsay. You can send them through paypal using my email address: mariharpham@hotmail.com  I will get it to her. I see her almost daily.


  1. that is definitely scary. I am so glad you are l safe and have each other. Very glad you had a shelter. Tyler was so brave helping others.

  2. Thank you for the uplifting update.
    So grateful you and yours were spared with just minor injuries. It was so sad to hear and watch the devastation going on in Moore.
    The people there are certainly brave.
    I am grateful we do not have many tornadoes here in Canada.
    We still pray for everyone there.

  3. I happen upon your blog by accident and do not know you but want you to know that I was and still am praying for Moore. I am so glad your family is ok.

    I am in animal rescue and many of my friends are down there too helping reunite pets,etc. I could not go because I have 20 little kittens here who are about to go up to adoption. They keep me busy too.

    I will continue to keep your area in prayer and so glad you and yours are safe.

    I can not imagine what it was like. I did go through a tornado in the early 70's and was without power for 3 weeks due to the hurricane. Our tornado was spawn from the Hurricane, Hugo in NC. I know how bad they are.

    Lots of hugs and prayer to you and yours.


  4. What a terrible ordeal for you and your family, thank goodness Tyler is safe, he's a very brave little man!
    Claire xx

  5. Hello Mari I saw your post on Creative Card Crew and just popped over to check in. I know that nothing I say will be of help or ease you, your families and friends sufferings. Please know that we feel for you and Moore. Although I can't help physically or financially if you need any crafty stufff for you or your grand kids or neighbourhood kids please let me know hun. Sending you and the peopole of Moore hugs Karen x

  6. I came to see your TMS post, saw that you are from Moore, and found this post. So thankful that you and your family are safe!! Thank you for sharing your story! We have been praying for all those affected but without knowing a lot of specifics.
    You have a special grandson!!

  7. Just read this Mari. All I can say I am so glad you and your family are okay and my heart breaks for those who lost loved ones during this storm. Homes being gone or destroyed is bad but losing family and friends is very hard. Hugs to you. I'm doing the SALS challenge post today. I sent you an email and hope you get it. I needed to know if there is a prize from Eureka Stamps. If I don't hear from you I'll post anyway and can edit it later. ~Sandy

  8. This must have been so hard to write and re-live what happened, cos it was hard to read! Tyler is such a brave wee man and I am so relieved that he survived such an horrific ordeal. Love and hugs to you all Mari, as you re-build your lives once again.


  9. The universe works in mysterious ways and so happy you were able to get the children and keep them safe in the nick of time. So glad you all are ok and my prayers are with you and the whole entire town.


  10. Mari, I cried watching your grandsons video. I can't believe how brave his is after going through all that! Thank the heavens, god, the universe that he survived! I was watching every second on CNN at the edge of my seat and praying as I watched parents frantically looking for their children. It gives me chills to think one of them was your grandson. Then I read your account with your 2 grand babies, how horrifying. You saved their lives. Alone and terrified you had the courage to keep going and get them to the shelter. Wow! And what an amazing 3yr old!! I am sending you all the biggest hug ever!

  11. God bless you and your family. You and Tyler were so brave. I will continue to pray for your family and the other affected by the tornado.

  12. I had a lot going on in my life when this happened and while aware of it hadn't seen any of the coverage here in the UK.
    This broke my heart and brought my own troubles into perspective.
    So glad you and yours are safe

  13. What a terrible ordeal and how amazing is Tyler a real hero.xx Glad you are all well x

  14. I popped over from Creative Card Crew after hearing that your town had been hit, My heart is literally breaking for you, how scary that whole episode must have been, not knowing about Tyler and your friends and family must have been traumatic. I am so pleased that your family made it through ok, I am sorry tho about your daughters house, that must be difficult but I guess the important things are safe, you and her children.. I really do hope that your community can pull through this and work together to get your lives back on track.
    Moore and your family are in my thoughts.
    You are an amazingly brave lady and have an amazing 3 year old and a very brave Tyler.
    Sending you a massive hug
    Kelly (UK)

  15. Sending you all my love, I dont really know what to say other than I will be sending all my wishes for your community to repair itself and be able to honour those who so tragically lost their lives. Life is very unfair sometimes, so we have to make the most of the time we have. Lots of love, Elaine -xxx-

  16. Oh Mari, I am stunned and saddened that you had to go through this. Your story made me cry (especially the part about the Vienna sausages!) I am so glad that your family is safe and whole. I would love to send you some strength to continue but will have to make due with the knowledge that you know I am thinking about you. This crafting world is so small. Sending you love.

  17. I came here because of a post at Saturated Canary today. Your post is so amazing and the video of your daughter and grandson is very moving. I am praying for you, your family and everyone touched by this tragedy in Moore.

  18. Hi, I have just found your blog through a mutual friend and I havejust cried tears while reading this. We watched the news coverage of that day over here in England and my heart went out to you all over there. We complain about the British weather but really we havent got a clue how bad mother nature can be. I wish you all the best in recovering your town from this disaster. HUGS from England UK
    Stacey xxx

  19. Heartbreaking and terrifying. Tyler sounds like a very brave young man, I'm sure you are very proud of him.

  20. I am so sorry Mari to hear of all the disaster; but glad you and your family are safe. It sounds as if you and the family were being taken care of with the timing of everything that happened that day. You are truly blessed even in a horrible event like this. My prayers are with you and your family. Have a wonderful week. Hugs, Gloria


  21. Oh hunny,
    I came across you from Saturated Canary, I agree with the U.K ladies, we really are lucky as we dont experience devastation like this, its heartbreaking when these things happen and to show the braveness young Tyler did is exceptional, he and you deserve a medal, to save your grandbabys is a fabulous thing and i am sure their very proud of you, When things like this happen it really does put things in perspectiveI send you my love and Prayers for all of the Moore comunity, God Bless
    Kenzie, Stoke, U.K xx

  22. Terrifying story Mari, I'm so glad you & your family are ok & send my thoughts to all in Moore. Thank-you for sharing your story. Hugs xxx

  23. I cried reading your account. God Bless you and your family. He was watching out for you family for sure. Do you have a fund or address we can mail donations to for you daughter? If you want to just send it to my email that would be wonderful

    Kathy D.

  24. You, your family, friends and fellow Moore residents are in my thoughts and prayers.

  25. Craziness! I am glad you and your are okay.

  26. Mari - thank you for sharing your story! You have put such a personal face on this tragic event. So glad you and your family was safe! I am touched by everyones courage and willingness to help each other during this time!