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June 26, 2013

Demolition clears ground for new beginnings

NORMAN — Eight years ago, Brenda Carpenter helped open Moore’s new hospital to the world. She helped deliver the center’s first male and female babies and its first set of twins. Now, as excavator machines gather around the shattered ruin of the Moore Medical Center, hit by the May 20 tornado, she has come to lay that part of her life to rest.

“This is just a building,” Carpenter said, nodding toward the twisted steel and concrete. “The thing that we lost was our family. Labor and delivery was a tight-knit group. Thirty of us had been here for more than five years. We’ve watched each other’s families grow up. We’ve delivered a lot of kids of different workers.”

Carpenter, along with some of her coworkers, has found a new job at the Norman Regional Healthplex five miles away. But even doing the same work, things have changed.

“This place was home for us,” she said. “A lot of people spent a lot of time here. When we’re at the Healthplex, we’re all so spread apart. We’re not home no more.”

Carpenter is one of dozens of workers who came to take one last look at the center before the excavators finish the destruction the tornado started. Dressed in tan, purple and blue scrubs, they mill about, chatting, snapping pictures with their phones or staring somberly. It’s something between a class reunion and a wake.

Nick Stremble, once Moore Medical Center’s emergency room manager, was working here May 20. Along with patients and other hospital staff, he retreated to the center of the building, escaping from the winds that blew cars through the air and tore steel apart like paper.

Stremble recalls another hospital employee, a bio-med technician, who helped him hold the cafeteria’s fire doors against the storm. When the doors gave, Stremble was pushed into the cafeteria and the other man was blown out into the hallway, away from safety. Stremble hasn’t been able to get in touch with the man since.

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