NORMAN — Tuesday morning, the scenery at Fourth Street and Telephone Road in Moore changed once again.
On Tuesday, what had been the home of Moore Medical Center since 2005 officially became a construction site. Finishing up what Mother Nature did May 20 when an EF-5 tornado ripped through the area, the process of completely bringing down the mangled building started after a morning full of shared memories, hugs, tears and even a couple of laughs.
The emotional morning began with a remembrance ceremony, which allowed employees a quiet time of reflection on the south, east and west Moore Medical Center parking lots.
From there, Norman Regional Health System President and CEO David Whitaker welcomed the crowd of MMC employees, city of Moore officials and the general public.
“All of my employees, it’s good to see you again,” Whitaker said.
Speaking to a large crowd, Whitaker reflected on the purpose for the ceremony.
“We are here not only to remember the good times and the great memories, the deep stories about Moore Medical Center, but we are also here to thank the members of the Moore Medical Center staff — particularly those of you that were in our facility that faithful afternoon,” Whitaker said. “When I think about your actions, I think about your heart, I think about your courage and I really think about our preparation as a health system as we prepare for disasters that we don’t want to happen for us or anyone else, but it did.
“Because of our dedicated staff, your heart, your courage, your preparation, we did good. You owe yourself a big hand of applause.”
On May 20, there were approximately 100 employees, 30 patients and 300 community members seeking shelter at MMC.
“During that 15-minute time that we all will remember, you saved the lives of about 40 patients. You saved each other’s lives as staff members and colleagues and then the 300 community members sought shelter at our Moore Medical Center. To not lose anyone is miraculous.”
Moore City Manager Steve Eddy read a proclamation from Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, who was unable to attend Tuesday’s service. In the proclamation, Lewis urged all citizens of Moore to honor the Moore Medical Center and the physicians, employees and volunteers who cared for and demonstrated selflessness, courage and heroism May 20.
During Tuesday morning’s ceremony, prior to the demolition work from Midwest Wrecking, Whitaker made the announcement of the formation of the Moore Advisory Committee that will include leaders from the city of Moore who will assist and offer recommendations to the hospital board’s strategic planning process to define what the new Moore Medical Center will look like.
Deidre Ebrey, director of economic development and marketing for the city of Moore, will co-chair the advisory committee with Whitaker.
“We are expecting about a three-week timeline on the demolition. At that time, we will be looking at 45 to 60 days as an initial plan to have temporary services on site here so that those folks that need urgent care and emergency services will be available here,” Whitaker said. “That will start the process of working with the advisory council, our board, our medical staff, the system, but more specifically those medical members who practiced here in Moore.
“They have to be a part of this relocation and rebuild plan, also. We will define what the Moore Medical Center will look like and we promise you, we will keep you fully informed of our status and what’s going to be happening.”
Moore Medical Center became a part of the Norman Regional Health System in 2007.
“I remember when we were in the process of going through acquiring Moore Medical Center, and the thing that struck me during our due diligence process, it was very apparent the attitude of employees we saw back when Moore was facing some challenging times on the financial side,” Whitaker said. “The thing that came through loud and clear to me, there was such a huge level of commitment from those employees that we ran across during that process of going through the court system. That really was one of the main reason we chose to move forward in trying to bring the Moore Medical Center in as part of the Norman Regional Health System.
“Now fast forward to May 20, once again that confirmation came out very loud and clear. We’re committed, we are going to be here. Will it be exactly like this? Probably not.”
Whitaker hoped that Tuesday’s ceremony and demolition process would help MMC employees begin the healing process.
“The backbone to this organization and its success and what it’s brought to the health system isn’t about the bricks and mortar that you see standing there, it’s about you. What you did what you brought to this organization, that’s what made Moore Medical Center Moore Medical Center, and that will never change,” Whitaker said. “If you walk away with one thing today, please remember that.
“Buildings can be replaced, and this building will be replaced, but what can’t be replaced, again those three words that keep popping into my mind, the heart, the courage and the preparation. You guys did it all that day.”
During the demolition process, Eddy said he was glad NRHS wanted to build another facility in Moore.
“It took a lot of years to get the hospital here. Norman came in and rescued it when it was having some difficulties. A hospital is such an important part of a community in terms of service that is provided and just community life, really. It is sad to see what’s happened to it, but it also means new life and new things. That’s true with everything in town here. It’s sad, sad, sad to see but out of it will come new and better and bigger. We’ve done that two times now with storms in the past and it gets better every time,” Eddy said.