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May 26, 2013

Neighbors just trying to survive

MOORE — Ours was the kind of pre-game pranks pulled by teenagers 40 years ago that might have gotten a kid suspended or sent to study hall. Rotten eggs, toilet paper and a few tire tracks left on the high school lawn here. The only problem this time was a handful of Moore High students were waiting for us and chased us in their own vehicles.

Our path from Moore High School over the interstate on Fourth Street, through some neighborhoods and then back to Norman on Telephone Road provided us an easy escape. A few mailboxes bit the dust in our chase and some yards were trenched.

On Wednesday, we traced much of the same route, only this time at a walking pace. The tornado shredded the neighborhood. Homes with neat yards, mailboxes and carports were replaced with piles of building debris, bricks and broken trees.

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Cars parked on the streets were flattened. Some were stacked, like those intentionally crushed and taken to salvage yards on flat-bed semi-trailers. Banks of portable lights were set up for the searchers and the out-of-state television crews

Men and women in camouflage were directing traffic, keeping out the thousands of gawkers who came to see the great train wreck. Orange markers noted which homes and cars had been searched and when.

There were military Humvees where sedans once parked. Street signs were gone or bent over like Dandelions on an August afternoon. We’ve seen such destruction before but never on such a scale experienced Monday afternoon.

Just this year, our county has battled hailstorms, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and droughts. Presidential disaster requests are a fill-in-the-blank form on the governor’s computer.

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In 1995, when the Murrah Building was taken down, the main roads near churches and cemeteries were transformed into one, endless funeral procession, only every driver on the road at the time turned on their lights out of respect. It took weeks as bodies had to be retrieved and identified, prepared and buried. The 1999 tornado, which claimed 44 lives, was similar.

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