One-Year Anniversary Of Deadly Tornado In Moore, Oklahoma

May 20, 2014
Originally published on May 20, 2014 3:08 pm

Flags in Oklahoma are flying at half mast today to mark the one-year anniversary of a violent tornado that tore the city of Moore apart and killed 24 people, including a number of school children.

Rachel Hubbard of KOSU in Stillwater, Oklahoma, joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss how the city has moved forward in the past year.


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And now to Moore, Oklahoma, where residents are marking the one-year anniversary of last year's deadly tornado.


YOUNG: And a remembrance ceremony, the Moore Fire Department Honor Guard rang a bell 25 times, the number of people killed last year. Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis thanked residents and outsiders for giving their time and money for recovery, and he called on people to build storm shelters in the event another tornado hits.

MAYOR GLENN LEWIS: We hope that this will never happen. But we know, more then likely, this is Moore, Oklahoma, we're probably going to have another tornado someday.

YOUNG: Rachel Hubbard of KOSU in Stillwater, Oklahoma, joins us from Oklahoma City. And Rachel, such a traumatic event. I almost feel, I heard some - a tremble in the Mayor's voice. Is this day bringing back a lot of those feelings for people?

RACHEL HUBBARD, BYLINE: You know, in the days leading up to the anniversary, I talked to so many people and they say, it seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday at the same time. And many people have been apprehensive when the sky gets dark here, even if it's not severe weather. They really, really struggle with the emotions of that day. And today brings it, certainly, all back.

YOUNG: Yeah. And we mentioned the mayor, he's calling on people to build these safe rooms or storm shelters. We found out last year, there is no law that buildings have to have these structures. And very few buildings had them. Although there's some talk about schools having them. So has there been a move to mandate these safe rooms, by law?

HUBBARD: There has been some movement in the state legislature. In fact one of the gubernatorial candidates is running on a platform to make sure that schools have storm shelters. That really didn't get anywhere in Oklahoma. But it has been a little bit of a political movement. We're also seeing one of the Plaza Tower students, who died, Danny Leg, one of those students mothers is running also, to get more shelters in schools and in homes, in her platform for the state legislature.

But, you know, it's not. Okalahoma believes that people should have the freedom of choice and that's how they're approaching it. It's not mandated by law. However, we are seeing a number of grant programs and the number of storm shelters in Moore has more than doubled. And the two elementary schools that are being rebuilt, both have storm shelters and the additional elementary school that's being built there, will also have a shelter.

YOUNG: Yeah, Plaza Towers, Briarwood Elementary, just terrible, terrible stories of what happened there. Several children killed. But how are those kids doing, the ones who survived?

HUBBARD: Well, I talked to several parents and a few students in the days leading up to the anniversary. And they're just taking it one step at a time. Each child is dealing with it individually. Today they were walking to the sites of their new schools and having a remembrance ceremony because it's the site of - where the school was destroyed a year ago.

I talked to one mother and she said, you know, everyday we drive by the memorial and everyday I ask him, do you want to stop? And some days he says yes and some days he says no. She says, so I feel like we take a few steps forward and a few steps back. But there's no right or wrong answer in the grieving process.

YOUNG: And Rachel, we only have about a minute but we also know that people are moving to the town, businesses are coming to the town. Some would wonder, from outside the area, why when it's in the path of these tornados?

HUBBARD: Well, the actual weather service does say that, on average, since 1991, a tornado is hit more every two and a half years. It's not necessarily above what it would be in another community. But Moore has a lot of things going for it. It's one of the cheapest suburbs to live in and the Oklahoma City Metro. And Oklahoma City is a growing job market.

And on top of that, there - on top of it being economical, its also has proximity to Oklahoma City to Norman. Housing is super cheap. So people are moving there and it continues to be a central part of the Oklahoma...

YOUNG: Yeah.

HUBBARD: ...City Metro.

YOUNG: It's great to know that it is coming back. Rachel Hubbard of KOSU, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Thanks so much.

HUBBARD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.