Skip to main content

Piece of children's book reflects the loss in Oklahoma town

By Holly Yan, CNN
May 23, 2013 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
iReporter Mark Toney found this poignant children's book while helping with tornado recovery efforts.
iReporter Mark Toney found this poignant children's book while helping with tornado recovery efforts.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Oklahoma City mayor: At least 12,000 homes in the area were damaged or destroyed
  • A volunteer describes finding a survivor trapped under a mountain of rubble
  • At least 24 people are dead and 353 injured from this week's massive tornado
  • A mayor and the mother of a deceased child call for more storm shelters or safe rooms

For local coverage of Monday's devastating storms in Oklahoma, go to these CNN affiliates: KFOR, KOCO and KOKH.

(CNN) -- The lone, tattered page from a decimated children's book sat quietly amid the rest of the rubble. But the words spoke volumes about the pain and nostalgia in the city of Moore:

"I remember my old house,

Its rooms so bright and wide.

Its halls will echo for all time,

With the laughter heard inside."

Concerns over lack of safe rooms
Moore superintendent on storm shelters
Oklahoma principal had faith in teachers
Teacher: Entire room caved in on us

Mark Toney found the battered page while volunteering with LifeChurch.TV.

"It more than likely came from a house that had been demolished," said fellow volunteer Jared Bowie, who was with Toney at the time. "Then I thought about how many houses were full of laughter and memories."

At least 12,000 homes were damaged or demolished from Monday's abysmal tornado, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said. The twister killed 24 people, including 10 children, and injured 353 in central Oklahoma.

With everyone missing now accounted for, the daunting road to recovery is underway.

Throngs of volunteers have come to Moore to help. Each has a poignant tale about the breadth of the human condition.

Juan Olivo started searching for survivors as soon as the storm passed. He documented the search on video.

"Is there anybody here?!" he bellowed as he walked past heaps of debris.

In the distance, deep under a mound of shredded lumber, a man's voice replied: "Here!"

Olivo and other volunteers raced to the wreckage.

"We're gonna get you out!" Olivo told the man.

He later told CNN's iReport he was stunned at the discovery.

Basements scarce in tornado-prone area -- here's why

"The odds of me filming and capturing this man cry out for help is one (in a) million, and I'm happy he is alive," Olivo said.

Demands for storm shelters

Of the 10 children killed by the tornado, seven were inside Plaza Towers Elementary School. The twister crushed the school and reduced it to pieces.

Kyle Davis, 8, was one of the victims.

"I am angry to an extent. I know the schools did what they thought they could do but with us living in Oklahoma, tornado shelters should be in every school," Kyle's mother, Mikki Dixon Davis, told CNN's Kyung Lah.

Her daughter, who was also at Plaza Towers when the storm struck, survived.

Photos: The path of destruction from above

"There should be a place that if this ever happened again during school that kids can get to a safe place," Davis said. "That we don't have to sit there and go through rubble ... and may not ever find what we're looking for."

Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said he would push for a law requiring storm shelters or safe rooms in new homes.

"What we will do is get the stakeholders here in the city ... and we'll discuss what we think we need to have," Lewis said.

"Anybody that lives in any tornado area should have (a storm shelter), but it's just the matter of cost."

Custom homebuilder Mike Barnett said an above-ground shelter runs $8,000 to $10,000; a small basement would cost $15,000 to $20,000; and a concrete cellar built during new-house construction would cost as little as $2,200.

Looking ahead

On top of the human toll and grief, the cost of the tornado's destruction is astronomical.

Insurance claims from the area are likely to exceed $2 billion, said Kelly Collins, a representative of the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in "good shape" to support the recovery in Oklahoma and other disaster zones, such as New Jersey and New York after Hurricane Sandy, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said.

"We got full allocation last year with the Sandy supplemental funds," Fugate said. "We are looking to continue the response here as well as the previous disasters."

But "if we have another hurricane, we may need more money."

As Moore continues its arduous recovery, Bowie pondered the page from the children's book. It shows a charming yellow house set atop lush green landscape.

He said it doesn't just allude to the joy now lost after the storm.

"It reminds me of the laughter and memories yet to come in the new houses that will be built," he said. "The memories are truly found in the heart, not the house."

Moore in bull's-eye twice, science may know why

CNN's Christina Zdanowicz, David Williams and Tom Watkins contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Oklahoma City Tornadoes
June 3, 2013 -- Updated 1358 GMT (2158 HKT)
Heavy storms and tornadoes once again ripped through the Midwest. Already devastated areas of Oklahoma were hit again, and this time the damage spread to neighboring states. Here's how you can help.
May 30, 2013 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
Families share memories and snapshots of those we lost in the Oklahoma tornado devastation.
June 5, 2013 -- Updated 1711 GMT (0111 HKT)
The Oklahoma medical examiner's office says 18 people in that state were killed in the storms. The office has released the names of 11.
June 4, 2013 -- Updated 1358 GMT (2158 HKT)
They chased tornadoes not so much for the thrill, but in the hope that their research might help people avoid the fate to which they succumbed last week.
June 4, 2013 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A menacing tornado churned behind Mike Eilts as the storm chaser's truck sped away.
May 27, 2013 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Why do people in Tornado Alley keep rebuilding and staying in place after storms rip through? People from Moore share their reasons why.
May 27, 2013 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
See the best images from the deadly storm.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
It's one of the most familiar pieces of advice from authorities to people in the path of a tornado: Get into your basement.
May 23, 2013 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
On Sunday, a mystery photograph fluttered from the sky and landed near Leslie Hagelberg's mailbox in West Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The tornado spanned 1.3 miles -- the length of more than 22 football fields lined up end-to-end -- carved a 17-mile path of destruction.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Second-grade teacher Tammy Glasgow walks around what's left of Briarwood Elementary, struggling to pick out of its wreckage the things that once made a school.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
It was the end of the school day. The kids at Plaza Towers Elementary School were stuffing their backpacks, looking forward to going home, playing with friends, eating snacks.
May 21, 2013 -- Updated 1609 GMT (0009 HKT)
The "Tri-State Tornado" killed 695 people and injured 2,027, traveling more than 300 miles.
See the path of the tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma.
ADVERTISEMENT