The Norman Transcript

June 17, 2013

Reunion unites community scarred by tornado

By Zachary Snowdon Smith
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Moore High School’s class of 1973 reunion was an opportunity for old schoolmates to reminisce and relax. But the class of ’73, like everything else in Moore, has been touched by the destruction of the May 20 tornado.

Today, this class is a cross-section of those affected by the tornado: citizens who lost homes, families split by tragedy and the municipal officials whose job it is to restore this fractured community.

Among the graduates of the class of ’73 are Moore’s mayor, city manager, assistant city manager and assistant fire chief, all of whom have played major roles coordinating relief efforts.

The reunion took place Saturday evening at the Reed Conference Center in Midwest City, in a modest but spacious hall lined with handmade photo collages and small bouquets held by stuffed lions, the Moore High School mascot. About 130 people attended.

“I think people need a release,” said Glenn Lewis, who has risen since 1973 from class president to Moore’s 19-year mayor. “To get away from the disaster and talk to people and meet old friends. I kinda needed it.”

The immediate task facing the City of Moore is removing debris so that mass reconstruction can begin, said Stephen O. Eddy, Moore city manager. The work of clearing away debris has been accomplished in large part by Moore-area volunteers, said Lewis.

Lewis is working with the rest of the Moore City Council to equip all apartment complexes, assisted living centers and daycare centers in Moore with safe rooms. He also hopes to have safe rooms installed in all newly built houses, he says.

“Most people have told me they’re building back and they’re building bigger,” said Lewis. “A lot of people who had 900-square-foot homes are building 1,400-square-foot homes. It’s going to be nicer, bigger, better, and most of the houses are going to have safe rooms.”

Public officials like Eddy and Lewis became the center of the reunion in a presentation on the tornado relief effort. During a montage of news footage of the storm’s aftermath, several members of the audience excused themselves from the room.

“I had to leave when they started the film,” said John Taylor, a class of ’73 alumnus whose house had its roof and chimney torn off. “I didn’t want to see it again, y’know. It’s hard.”

At the door of the conference hall, “Restore Moore” T-shirts were sold to raise money for area relief organizations. The shirts were produced by Restore Joplin, an organization formed after the 2011 Joplin, Mo., tornado event. Sales raised more than $1,000 on the evening of the reunion, said Steve Shrum, volunteer T-shirt vendor.

“This reunion represents a lot of different people who experienced damage,” said Eddy. “It represents the people of Moore, proud to be from Moore. ... We all have a strong sense that we’re going to recover fine.”