One year ago this week, a deadly EF-5 tornado swept through Moore, Oklahoma, taking the lives of 24 people and destroying over 11-hundred homes. For many people, this week marks a painful reminder of the damage. For others, the year anniversary is an opportunity to put the devastation behind them with the support of their peers. Kate Carlton reports.
Alise Newby lived right across from Plaza Towers Elementary School last year when the tornado leveled both the school and her house. She isn’t from Oklahoma, so she wasn’t exactly sentimental when it came to finding a new home outside of the devastated town.
“We knew we didn't want to stay in Moore. I didn't necessarily want to relive that memory on a daily basis,” she said.
“I know that it's been a year and now I kind of look at it differently. There's a strong sense of community in Moore. Now moving away is a little more difficult.”
Alise says visiting the site of her old home, which still has piles of dirt on it, isn’t sad for her anymore. Instead, she just wants the lot to be cleaned up so she can move on with her life.
“I'm ready for that new home, the new beginning, being able to kind of have a clean slate where we can kind of have a different life and start fresh. So it's good for us to be out of Moore,” she said.
Alise and her family found a lot in a new development in Norman shortly after the storm last year. They purchased the property and started building the house, along with many other young families.
Little did she know, her next-door neighbor would be Micah Moody and her family, people who also lived across from Plaza Towers. Alise says even though she lived right around the corner from Micah in her old neighborhood, they had never met. But the friendship was an easy one.
“The first day we really actually met and knew we were going to move in to each other, we connected immediately, and from there, it's just blossomed and it's just been an awesome experience to have great people moving in next door,” Alise said.
“We got far more than we could ever ask for,” said Micah Moody.
She says living next to a tornado survivor is a welcome surprise.
“To know that we're going to have neighbors next door who have been through that same battle, been through that same trial, it's like God just gave us an extra blessing because we know we need that strength, we need that support. We need family,” Micah said.
Neither Micah nor Alise have family nearby, so it’s important to them to be in a spot where they feel welcomed. Micah moved into her house a few weeks ago, and Alise’s home is nearing completion.
As the two meet other neighbors, Alise says they’ve found multiple families who were involved in the tornadoes from last year.
“We've got a community of people who all get it. Who all get the fear, get the anxiety that comes with storm season and, you know, we have each other to rely on now,” Alise said.
Both women are looking forward to moving past May 20th this year. There’s no doubt it will draw media attention. And while their families are whole, they lost homes, and that’s not something that’s easy to relive.
Micah says this new neighborhood, which has turned out to be full of storm survivors, allows them respite.
“It's comforting because we don't want to sugar coat the reality of still the inward struggle that we still have about the fact that tornadoes are going to come again,” she said.
Alise is grateful for the quiet storm season Oklahoma has experienced so far. She thinks it has given her family additional time to heal. But if one does come, she thinks she’ll be prepared.
“I'm not fearful of another storm hitting because I feel like I'm ready and I'm prepared and understand how to get past it and understand what the steps are to rebuild and start again. And that's not scary anymore,” she said.
Alise knows the year anniversary will be a sad day. But she's done letting the storm upset her. Instead, she looks forward to remembering all the good that's happened since last May.
Funding for the Oklahoma Tornado Project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.