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May 20, 2014

Couple mourns loss of young lives

NORMAN — When the tornado hit, Dennis and Wilma Chastain were holding hands. On May 20, 2013, the couple left their home in south Oklahoma City in Green Briar Estates near Westmoore High School around 2 p.m. to make it to a 2:30 appointment near Moore Medical Center.

Tornadoes have frequented the area, often putting the Chastain’s home in danger. This time, home would have been the safer place to be. The Moore Medical Center and the nearby doctors’ offices were destroyed that day as the structures took a direct hit from an EF-5 tornado.

The Chastains have been married for 57 years and have grown grandchildren. In 79 years of living in Oklahoma, Dennis Chastain has never seen a tornado first-hand — and still hasn’t. But that day, he experienced what it’s like to be caught by one.

Now a year later, the Chastains are grateful to have survived, but feelings of depression and anxiety plague the couple. For Wilma Chastain, one haunting moment is indelibly etched in her memory.

Following the couple’s rescue, they were taken to the hospital and put in different rooms to be examined. When she was released, Wilma was told to keep the gown — her clothes were covered with dust from the rubble. She wandered down the hall in her hospital gown, dazed by the day’s events and looking for her husband.

As she passed another room, she saw a young woman inside crying.

“She had three little diapers in her hand,” Wilma said, then broke into tears.

Dennis Chastain said they later learned that the woman’s baby had died.

“It was a poignant moment,” he said.

“Why am I still here and her sweet little baby is gone?” Wilma said. “Every day I get up and think, ‘What is my mission today?’”

The couple celebrated 57 years of marriage in August. Wilma is still recovering from her injuries.

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