Posted on September 18, 2014 by By Carol Hartzog Communications

Rubble surrounds what was left of Cherie Pope's Moore home.
Rubble surrounds what was left of Cherie Pope's Moore home.

Editor's Note: This excerpt is from a story about the rebuilding experience of two families in the wake of the 2013 Moore tornado. The story was published in the Fall 2014 edition of Oklahoma Builder magazine.

Cherie Pope had no premonition that a massive F5 tornado was about to strike her Moore neighborhood on the afternoon of May 20, 2013, when she arrived at work at St. Anthony's Hospital in midtown Oklahoma City.

That quickly changed when tornado alarms began going off as she walked in to assume her duties as a nurse in the hospital's adolescent psychiatric unit.

"One of the therapists came and turned on the computer to the local television news," Pope recalled.

Cherie Pope outside her new home in Moore.
Cherie Pope outside her new home in Moore.

She heard references to both Briarwood Elementary and Plaza Elementary and was uncertain if her neighborhood had been hit. Her home in the Westmoore Addition is just two blocks west of Briarwood Elementary School. She could see it from her front window.

"Then my daughter called and said,  ‘Mom, I don't think you have a home," Pope said.

In the end, both schools were destroyed and seven schoolchildren were among the 24 who perished and 377 injured in the storms that day.

Meanwhile, Eric and June Simson lived a few blocks east of Pope in the same neighborhood. They were both at work miles away that afternoon. Eric is an instructor at the FAA center near Will Rogers World Airport, and June worked on the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center campus near downtown Oklahoma City.

When the tornado sirens sounded, Eric and his fellow co-workers went to their designated tornado shelter in the basement of the building, which also was used as a classroom. Eric began streaming a local television station from his computer and put the feed on a large screen so everyone could watch.

"We were sitting there watching the news, and Mike Morgan said something about the tornado being at 156th Street," Eric recalled. "The guy who was sitting there with me said how close is that to your house?' I said well, I'm on 146th. My roof is probably gone at worst.'"

It wasn't long before Simson learned that Briarwood Elementary took a direct hit from the tornado, and his home was only about four blocks due east.

"At that point, I looked at him and said, game over, we're done.'"

Both families, Pope, who is single with adult children, and the Simsons were suddenly thrown into a chaotic situation. Their homes were destroyed by the tornado and the surrounding neighborhoods so damaged that they couldn't readily get in to assess ... click here to read the entire story at Oklahoma Builder magazine.


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