Part 1,
Page 3 of 6

Trek  Across  Moore





He then asked me about her address, and I finally came up with "something on Ridgeway." [Note: Ridgeway is only three or four blocks long.] I began to think he was not going to give me a ride anywhere. This was confirmed when he got on his computer, punched a few buttons, and then said, "Mr. Riseley, we cleared that street over an hour ago." I know baloney when I hear it; I said, "Okay, then where's my sister?" The time had come for me to continue on my trek, and for him to go back to doing whatever it was he was doing.

I had walked a ways down Western when I saw what looked like a ranch house or something sat back off Western to the east. The thought occurred to me that I could save time by cutting through to the southeast, which I did. Up to this point, I had seen only a few signs of the tornado and how bad it had been. I had been listening to the news all the way from Weatherford, about 70 miles, but hadn’t heard many details. But about then, I saw a dead horse. Then I saw another one. And another. Before long, I saw a whole slew of them. I'm pretty much an animal person, and I began to wonder if there were any live ones left. This was the Orr Farm, which I didn't know anything about at the time; and I still don't know if any of their horses survived. But I had the thought that horses don't weather tornados very well. It was as though the tornado had picked them up and broken their backs. Dogs and cats seemed to fare better. (The next day I was present a couple of times when pets were discovered in the rubble, and I promise you it is a heart-wrenching thing over which almost anyone - well, I know I do - breaks down.)

Cutting across here was also the first experience I had with the all-pervasive mud characteristic of the tornado. Wherever the tornado had been, what was before lawn, had been almost magically converted to slippery mud. Maybe it still had slivers of grass, like the thin strands of hair on an old man's head, but it was mostly mud. And the south sides of most the buildings were like they had been painted with mud and some splotchy substance - insulation, maybe.

Anyway, as I finally made my way to a regular street where I could turn east, I began to see more of the tornado's results. There were people going through the rubble of their homes. At this point, I should probably tell you that for some reason that I can't now explain, I had been and at this time still was, optimistic about the outcome for my sister, niece and nephew and others, and maybe even their homes. I was actually encouraged by what I was seeing, because it looked pretty ... well, survivable. Later, this feeling would change, with the feeling that my earlier optimism had been naive. Now I think it was neither, but rather was just the confusion that a normal person's mind goes through when confronted for the first time with nature's horror on a large, yet personal scale. If you don't believe me, then try this: close your eyes, and imagine that when you open them, everything around the building you're in, by that I mean everything, including also all the buildings around that building, are completely converted to rubble, and that someone you care about has been killed. To tell you the truth, I think that's pretty hard to imagine, because the mind initially rejects those thoughts. I don't know why.

I saw some people standing in rubble beside a bicycle. I asked them "Hey does that bike have any air in the tires?" "No? Okay." I asked this same question a couple of times until this one guy said yes. I asked him if I could borrow it, and he again said yes. I went over there, we exchanged phone numbers (his name was Rob McClahey,) and I carried the bicycle to the street. This was my first real break of the day and it made a world of difference. Even though it was a small bike, about half my size, it had one of those seats adjustable by a lever, and I headed off. I headed eastward at a new rate of speed; wheels make all the difference.

I think I mentioned that I'm a 63 year old heart patient. Not that that's the worst you can be, but it does kind of limit what you can do physically. I was breathing pretty hard and had to pretty much keep my nose to the grindstone to maintain a decent clip.   As I went along, the bike's rear tire had lost some air, so that slowed  it a

This is the Briarwood school.  Can you believe it was the lesser-damaged of the two that I rode by on the bicycle?  Can you see the teacher in this photo?   Hint: she's near the middle.