The Norman Transcript

Features

June 9, 2013

Surviving the storm

NORMAN — Like many who suffered through the tragic events in Moore less than a month ago, the life that Aaron Wright Gray knew before May 20 has forever been changed.

Formerly the entertainment editor at The Transcript, Gray is now the children’s department manager at the Southwest Oklahoma City Public Library. Part of Gray’s job is to go to schools in the Moore area to visit with children about the library’s summer reading program. On May 20, Gray was doing just that at Briarwood Elementary.

About the time the tornado was heading toward Moore, Gray was actually wrapping up her visit at the school.

“In my last presentation, I would say roughly 2:40-2:45, there was a loud clap of thunder and someone came on the intercom and said, ‘If you are in a portable building, come into the building.’ Even though I knew there was a chance of severe weather, I didn’t think we were in tornadic activity. I thought we were just about to have some thunder and lightning,” Gray said.

Soon, Gray said, the school was told to take tornado precautions. Gray started checking in with friends and family on her cell phone, but was having trouble getting service.

“A friend sent me a text as it started to get dark, she said, ‘It’s really big. They are saying get out or get underground.’ At that point, I really started to get worried,” Gray said.

Teachers and staff first told Gray to huddle in a hallway of the school with students. Then, she was told to move into a bathroom.

Still trying to get texts from the outside world, Gray began to hear the powerful tornado as it barreled through the Oklahoma skies.

“For me, when I heard it and the way it got louder, I thought it was going to hit us. Everyone got really quiet because you could hear it hit the building. I felt it because I was by the door. And I smelled it because it had gone through all those pastures. To me, it smelled like fresh cut grass,” Gray said.

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