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We talked about moving, getting away from tornado country, but we decided this is our home and it’s where I wanted to retire and live. So we’ve taken one step at a time, with help from a lot of people.


- Charles Early, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative member and retired U.S. Air Force





Left: Christian Aid Ministries’ (CAM) volunteers rebuild a home porch that was damaged by a tornado. Photo by Patti Rogers/OEC; Center: Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC) member David Boydston and his family lost all they had to the tornadoes on May 19, 2013. Photo courtesy of David Boydston; Right: CAM Secretary Cheryl Troyer and OEC Foundation Board Member & Baptist Minister Sunny Stuart after he presented Cheryl with a check of $30,000 from the OEC Foundation. Photo by Patti Rogers/OEC


Roast in the Oven Charles Early, retired U.S. Air Force and


Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC) member, spent May 19, 2013, like many Sundays before in Newalla, Okla. Early and his mother and son were getting ready to sit down for supper, the television on in the background. “On Sunday, we usually have our roast dinner,”


Early said. “My mom made the comment that tornadoes were coming through Norman, so we’d need to keep track of them since we don’t have a shelter. Next thing we know, they’re developing over Lake Thunderbird.” Early and his family began loading things into


his truck in preparation for the tornado. When the house lost power, he decided it was time to leave. “We thought it would have to be in a pretty close vicinity if we had lost power,” Early said. “While we were outside, I looked up and saw a huge fl ock of birds crossing the sky as if they knew something big was headed our way. We got in the truck and left and within 45 seconds we see a tor- nado strafi ng through our neighborhood.” Down the road, David Boydston, a student and


OEC member, began his day with a promising job lined up through a friend. He gathered his tools and made his way into town for work when he heard about the storm coming their way. “When I heard tornadoes were coming down, I turned around and headed back home,” Boydston said. “The radio said it was hitting 168th and Indian Hill Road which is right on the corner where our house was.” At around 6 o’clock in the evening, tornadoes


reaching up to an EF4 rating cut a 20-mile path from Lake Thunderbird to Shawnee, Okla. Both men recall it was a blessing that no one they knew was hurt in the storm. “My wife and kids made it to shelter in a cellar next door,” Boydston said. “I beat the news crew,


16 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


the police, and everyone else out there. I was so happy to see my kids, my son, running down the road to me when I pulled up.” “We were lucky to get out when we did,” Early


said. “My son was crying and praying in the back- seat as we were trying to get around people on the road. We got out of the way just long enough; 10 to 20 minutes later it was as if nothing had ever happened, just blue skies.” When they considered their homes however, they realized just how much damage could be wrought within that short amount of time. As Boydston made it up to his house, he found it completely leveled. His wife’s car was thrown into a tree. Early’s log home received extensive tornado damage as well. “As we came up on our house, I knew there was damage because I couldn’t see the house above the tree line,” Early said. “The tornado had taken the second and third stories completely off and thrown them into my neighbor’s house. We found the stove in their front yard a couple days later with our roast still in the oven.” For Early and Boydston’s families, May 19


marked a signifi cant shift in their lives and they hoped to begin their


recovery process.


Unfortunately, May 20 would create even more chaos in not only theirs, but other families’ lives as well.


May 20 The next day, LaDonna Horton, a community


relations specialist for Love’s Travel Stops, went about her work as normal, but watched the weath- er closely as more storms moved in. When things began to look bad, she became concerned about her daughter who worked in Moore. “I was worried because it looked like it was get- ting close to where she worked,” Horton said. “I was tracking the tornado while I was at Love’s, so


I was relieved when it turned away from her work. It was then I realized that its path went right over our home.” Horton left work and headed south to Moore, along with so many others. Traffi c kept her from making it down the highway, forcing her to use backroads and side streets. Before she could make it to her neighborhood she received a call from her daughter. “It’s all gone,” she said, “everything’s gone.” “When I reached my street, I couldn’t wrap my head around it,” Horton said. “Plaza Towers was to my left, surrounded by emergency vehicles. Everything around had just been leveled.” That same day, Boydston and his wife headed to a command post in Shawnee, Okla., to take care of their car insurance claim. In the process of sal- vaging what they could from their home, they had stored much of their stuff at his brother’s in Moore and were attempting to get back on track. They could not believe it when they heard about an- other tornado. “We immediately headed to Moore because that’s where our kids were,” Boydston said. “When we got down there, my wife kept asking, ‘Is it hit- ting the school? Did it hit the school?’ Sure enough, it hit Plaza Towers, which is where my kids go to school. Thankfully they came through it ok.”


The Road to Recovery


In the days following the May tornadoes, sup- port began to pour into Oklahoma. Donations of money, clothing, water and other supplies fl owed to emergency response teams and services. Government and nonprofi t organizations, busi- nesses, churches, schools and volunteers came together to begin helping those laid low by the storms. “You know, we talked about moving, getting


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