Part 1,
Page 5 of 6

Trek  Across  Moore





nothing, I mean nothing, that looked even vaguely familiar to me.

The terrain turned downhill, so I got back on the bike and cruised west looking for street signs, but there weren't any, and if there were it would have been too dark to read them (no electricity, you know). I came to a dead end, and realized that I must have overshot Ridgeway. [This put me at one of the north corners of Plaza Towers Elementary School, which at this time I didn't know existed. If you had told me about the school, and even had it been daylight, I still wouldn't have recognized it as a school. Like everything else here, it was just a pile of rubble.]

So I turned around and went back to what I thought was Ridgeway. I saw an old man working by flashlight. I asked him "What street is this?" He said, "I don't know." I said, "Don't you live here?" to which he didn't reply. I understood, though, about him being there without seeming to know where he was. I felt the same. This odd conversation was just one of many odd things happening that day. Maybe the old man was just as shell-shocked as I was.

I gave up on that street and went over to the next one. I asked three teen aged boys walking down the middle of the street (that was the only place you could walk) if they knew what street they were on. One of them said, "No. Ask those guys down there." I saw several guys near a white van of some kind. I rode up to them and asked them if they knew what street this was. (I was asking it that way because I was again having trouble remembering the word "Ridgeway", but I would know it if I heard it.) They said they didn't know, but the guy closest to me asked me "Who are you looking for?" About that time, I saw one of them bringing a gurney down the driveway of what had been a house there, and I thought, "Oh. These guys are way too busy for me to be bothering them." But by reflex I said, "Deanna Ward." The guy asked "What relation is she to you?" I thought to myself, "Well that's a strange question", but I was disoriented, and this was a strange night, and so I answered, "My sister." To that, he said, "That's her right there."

At this point my optimism very suddenly disappeared. Looking back on it now, I wonder how it is that I could have seen all this carnage and even harbored the thought that she would be okay. But remember that I had only come upon this weird planet about a half hour before. (When you come face to face with a catastrophe for the first time, it really does take your mind a period of time to process what you're seeing.)

My new way of looking at this was, "Oh, I see now. This tornado was not just a force of nature like you hear about and see on TV - it was also a killer." Unlike whatever thoughts I had previously whenever I saw TV film clips of the earlier Moore tornados, that's what I think of now. And it's now a mystery to me that more people weren't killed.

When I could speak a little, I realized that these guys were with the Medical Examiner's office. Later, I gave their card to my niece, but I can't remember any names. They were a really professional as well as empathetic team. I asked them about my nephew, Mark Stephens, Deanna's son, who I thought, but wasn't entirely sure, had also been there. They said, "Well, that must have been him who was taken to the hospital some time back." They didn't know which hospital..

With that my purpose changed. I needed to find Mark. And I also still hadn't checked on my niece, Shelly Irvin, her husband, Steve Irvin, and their children who lived about one-half mile northeast, but also directly on the path of the tornado.

I thought first of Shelley and Steve, because if they were okay, they might have transportation we could use to find Mark. But I didn't think I could walk or bike any more at that time. The geography of the one-half mile path (see next part), not to mention the total devastation and its accompanying utter darkness made the route from where I was to their house way more difficult than one might think.