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Moore residents take stock of what's left

MOORE, Okla. — A hot pink magnet. A Def Leppard concert T-shirt. Scatched-up TV remotes. Her grandmother's gold watch.

That's about all Ann Friess could salvage Tuesday from the mud and muck that had been her single-story home. It's now a pile of rubble, broken wood beams and bricks on a concrete slab.

After the deadly storm on Monday, she saw strangers sifting through what was left of her residence, not sure if they were helpers, curiosity seekers or looters.

"We don't even have anything," she said in an exasperated tone. "Why would you want to take what little we have left?"

Wearing a Batman cap, a bulky, blue raincoat and rain boots, she sat on a downed utility pole as her husband, David, discovered personal items at least a football field away from where their home had stood on Sixth Street.

The couple is staying with friends. But Friess, 45, vowed they'll start as soon as possible to build a new home on a lot of land near Oklahoma City. Monday was heartbreaking, she said.

She and her husband were planning to ride out the storm at their home. But once they saw how powerful the winds were, they sped away in her husband's red pickup.

"It was behind us. So we turned around, parked and watched it roll over the neighborhood," she said.

Their neighborhood, just west of Interstate 35 and the badly damaged Moore Medical Center, was one of the hardest hit in this town of 55,000. Nearly all the homes in this area appeared uninhabitable.

Smashed cars littered an open field. Hazmat workers were conducting house-to-house inspections, while residents, onlookers and media milled about.

Down the street from Friess, Ryan Coggins was holding onto his friend's dog that he had just rescued. Coggins, 21, of Moore, said he had happened to see his friend's dog during a news broadcast showing scenes of destruction.

Coggins went over to the neighborhood and found the dog sitting in the front seat of a car parked at his friend's house. The dog, a blue-eyed female German shepherd named Fly, was scared but otherwise okay, and Coggins was using a rope for a leash. The house was destroyed and the garage had toppled onto the car.

Along with the dog, Coggins managed to save a few other items for his friend, who had gone to his grandmother's house during Monday's storm. "He grew up here. This was his home for 21 years," Coggins said, who added that his own home was fine.

Janie Meadows, who grew up in the neighborhood and had attended Plaza Towers Elementary years ago, returned Tuesday to survey the destruction. She gave away ponchos and bottles of water to those in need.

Standing in the rain, in a pink poncho, she talked about how helpless she felt at the sight of her old neighborhood. "I have a bunch of friends who grew up in this neighborhood with me. I cannot believe it's all gone."

A few blocks away, First Baptist Church of Moore set up first aid stations as volunteers disbursing food, cases of water and sports drinks, and other supplies, including gloves, diapers, bug spray, soap and shampoo, for storm victims.

Dozens of suddenly homeless residents found shelter after the tornado at the sprawling red-brick church, next to a neighborhood full of badly damaged homes, said Joey Dean, a youth pastor at the church.

"We're used to disasters. It's one of those things. Tornado hits. Bomb goes off. And everyone's just rolling up their sleeves and pitching in," Dean said. "That's just kind of how Oklahoma's always been."

Moore residents take stock of what's left 05/21/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 7:58am]
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