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
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.”
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.
“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.
Young lives remembered
Seven of the 10 children killed in the storm were inside the school when it collapsed.
Kyle Davis, 8, was among 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.
Her daughter, who was also at Plaza Towers when the storm struck, survived.
“There should be a place that if this ever happened again during school that kids can get to a safe place,” she said. “That we don’t have to sit there and go through rubble … and may not ever find what we’re looking for.”
“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.
‘We’re going to help them recover’
On top of the human toll and grief, the cost of the tornado’s destruction is astronomical.
Insurance claims related to Monday’s tornado and storm in metropolitan Oklahoma City are likely to top $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. 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,” he said Wednesday.
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.”
CNN’s Christina Zdanowicz, David Williams and Tom Watkins contributed to this report.