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Piece of children's book reflects the loss in Oklahoma town

By Holly Yan, CNN
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Thu May 23, 2013
iReporter Mark Toney found this poignant children's book while helping with tornado recovery efforts.
iReporter Mark Toney found this poignant children's book while helping with tornado recovery efforts.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Oklahoma City mayor: At least 12,000 homes in the area were damaged or destroyed
  • A volunteer describes finding a survivor trapped under a mountain of rubble
  • At least 24 people are dead and 353 injured from this week's massive tornado
  • A mayor and the mother of a deceased child call for more storm shelters or safe rooms

For local coverage of Monday's devastating storms in Oklahoma, go to these CNN affiliates: KFOR, KOCO and KOKH.

(CNN) -- The lone, tattered page from a decimated children's book sat quietly amid the rest of the rubble. But the words spoke volumes about the pain and nostalgia in the city of Moore:

"I remember my old house,

Its rooms so bright and wide.

Its halls will echo for all time,

With the laughter heard inside."

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Mark Toney found the battered page while volunteering with LifeChurch.TV.

"It more than likely came from a house that had been demolished," said fellow volunteer Jared Bowie, who was with Toney at the time. "Then I thought about how many houses were full of laughter and memories."

At least 12,000 homes were damaged or demolished from Monday's abysmal tornado, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said. The twister killed 24 people, including 10 children, and injured 353 in central Oklahoma.

With everyone missing now accounted for, the daunting road to recovery is underway.

Throngs of volunteers have come to Moore to help. Each has a poignant tale about the breadth of the human condition.

Juan Olivo started searching for survivors as soon as the storm passed. He documented the search on video.

"Is there anybody here?!" he bellowed as he walked past heaps of debris.

In the distance, deep under a mound of shredded lumber, a man's voice replied: "Here!"

Olivo and other volunteers raced to the wreckage.

"We're gonna get you out!" Olivo told the man.

He later told CNN's iReport he was stunned at the discovery.

Basements scarce in tornado-prone area -- here's why

"The odds of me filming and capturing this man cry out for help is one (in a) million, and I'm happy he is alive," Olivo said.

Demands for storm shelters

Of the 10 children killed by the tornado, seven were inside Plaza Towers Elementary School. The twister crushed the school and reduced it to pieces.

Kyle Davis, 8, was one of the victims.

"I am angry to an extent. I know the schools did what they thought they could do but with us living in Oklahoma, tornado shelters should be in every school," Kyle's mother, Mikki Dixon Davis, told CNN's Kyung Lah.

Her daughter, who was also at Plaza Towers when the storm struck, survived.

Photos: The path of destruction from above

"There should be a place that if this ever happened again during school that kids can get to a safe place," Davis said. "That we don't have to sit there and go through rubble ... and may not ever find what we're looking for."

Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said he would push for a law requiring storm shelters or safe rooms in new homes.

"What we will do is get the stakeholders here in the city ... and we'll discuss what we think we need to have," Lewis said.

"Anybody that lives in any tornado area should have (a storm shelter), but it's just the matter of cost."

Custom homebuilder Mike Barnett said an above-ground shelter runs $8,000 to $10,000; a small basement would cost $15,000 to $20,000; and a concrete cellar built during new-house construction would cost as little as $2,200.

Looking ahead

On top of the human toll and grief, the cost of the tornado's destruction is astronomical.

Insurance claims from the area are likely to exceed $2 billion, said Kelly Collins, a representative of the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in "good shape" to support the recovery in Oklahoma and other disaster zones, such as New Jersey and New York after Hurricane Sandy, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said.

"We got full allocation last year with the Sandy supplemental funds," Fugate said. "We are looking to continue the response here as well as the previous disasters."

But "if we have another hurricane, we may need more money."

As Moore continues its arduous recovery, Bowie pondered the page from the children's book. It shows a charming yellow house set atop lush green landscape.

He said it doesn't just allude to the joy now lost after the storm.

"It reminds me of the laughter and memories yet to come in the new houses that will be built," he said. "The memories are truly found in the heart, not the house."

Moore in bull's-eye twice, science may know why

CNN's Christina Zdanowicz, David Williams and Tom Watkins contributed to this report.

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