NORMAN — In the aftermath of a violent tornado ripping through Moore, residents are shocked, dazed and resolute.
For May 3, 1999, tornado survivor Anita Acosta Monday’s experience was all too familiar.
“You could see the debris. It started getting black, you could just see it all coming, like a big old thundering train coming, and I thought, ‘Oh my god. I’ve got to shut the door,’” she said. “And all of a sudden it was like roaring thunder, you could hear something break and it was just shaking. I was sitting on the floor and the whole house was shifting. I was like, ‘Oh my god. I’m going. This is it.’ I was like, ‘OK. This is it. This is it. This is my life.’”
Acosta’s house on 149th Street was left standing, but the tornado still left its mark.
“Debris everywhere, but my daughter, she works for Plaza Towers Elementary and they got fatalities over there. She’s OK,” she said. “And then my son’s house is damaged, that’s why we’re going over there. Half his house is gone.”
Plaza Towers Teacher Assistant Kelly Law said children at the school, located at 852 SW 11th St., took cover with staff inside the main hallways and bathrooms.
“It sounded like somebody was going through with a mower and hitting a tin roof ... I had my eyes shut, all of us teachers were covering as many heads as we could,” Law said.
OU Medical Center received about 85 patients of various ages, including 20 adults and 65 children in trauma rooms. The injuries range from minor to critical. Integris Southwest and Norman hospitals also reported treating children.
After hearing reports that Plaza Towers was one of the worst areas hit, Trina Kinsfather rushed to the area to check on the welfare of her son Brandon, a sixth-grader at the school.
Kinsfather gathered with other parents at Abundant Life Church, 777 SW 19th St., to await the news from first responders on the status of their children. Upon hearing her son was conscious and transported to a local hospital, Kinsfather was emotional but relieved.
“Cry. Be happy that we’re alive,” she said when asked what she may do when reunited with Brandon.
Several yards away other family members gathered around a Plaza Towers administrator desperate for news of their children. With mud and debris laced in her hair, the administrator calmly addressed the huddled group with the limited information she had.
Holding on to a school yearbook, the administrator assisted Moore Police in identifying children.
A few blocks west at 1020 16th St. Blanca Quiroz assessed the remnants of her home. Standing next to two of her sons, Quiroz maintained composure and perspective.
“It’s fine. My sons are fine. It’s just things. We’re alive,” she said.
Priority No. 1 for the family was reuniting everyone in one place.
Residents in the neighborhood abandoned their own concerns at the first cries for help, many toting crowbars and shovels in search of those in need.
Shouts for help rang out as first responders raced towards various piled remains of homes to search for survivors.