One block: How neighbors saw twister's deadly path

By Allen G. Breed

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:27 p.m. MDT

As the neighbors picked over the storm's leavings Tuesday, rain pelted down and the sky crackled with lightning. Uniformed National Guard members stood watch at the intersection, keeping all but residents out.

The Garlands dug through the rubble for the safe, which had been ripped from the concrete floor, but was intact. As Rebecca Garland stood in the rain, wearing a pink Oklahoma University T-shirt and Oklahoma City Thunder basketball cap given to her by a stranger, Max emerged from around the pile with a sodden Tin Man doll — part of her once extensive "Wizard of Oz" collection.

A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Dan Garland built the houses on either side of his, including his mother's at No. 1348, now flattened. There was no question but that they'll rebuild.

"I've only been knocked down once," he says, holding a chain saw. "No storm is going to scare me off. I'll build it a little more secure, and I'll have a basement probably. But I love my place here."

It wasn't until a day after the storm that Colleen Purdue realized that that door to their shelter had been ripped from its hinges. She looked inside to find it filled with water and debris.

"It's a good thing we weren't in there," she says, "Or we'd be dead."

The couple aren't sure they will stay. When a visitor wishes her luck, Colleen Perdue says she doesn't need it.

"I've already had all my luck," she says. "Because I'm alive."

From the outside, the Knight and Shelton homes appeared largely intact. But the storm twisted the structures in ways that only a close inspection can detect, and both homes will likely have to be demolished, Knight says.

The old firefighter had been lucky so far. But he wondered how much longer he can beat the odds.

"I've lived here all my life," he says, staring through the shattered windows of the sun room where his wife kept her three parrots. "But this deal. Every time it clouds up, they say it's headed towards Moore. And, man, it's a bad deal."

Standing atop the debris pile beside his home, Osmus shouted down to Jann over the whup-whup of hovering helicopters.

"You going to rebuild?" he asks

She answers without hesitation: "Yes. One hundred percent. 10-4."

Osmus supposes he'll rebuild as well. Osmus is a tough guy — a Vietnam-era Marine — but his peace of mind has been shattered.

Picking through the rubble, his son, Kevin Metz, finds a wall clock, its hands frozen at 3:15. After some more digging, Osmus finds one of his most treasured possessions — a menacing-looking Bowie knife with an eagle's head carved into the ivory handle, a gift from a Marine pal.

But the 1958 Ford Fairlane his father gave him is a total loss.

People always say that it's just stuff, and that it can be replaced. But Osmus knows it's more than just that.

"Memories — they're always there," he says, surveying the wreckage through bloodshot eyes, "But material items to MAKE you remember. If they're gone, you lose touch. That's the hard part."

Somewhere in the distance, a cock crows. And Osmus returns to his search.

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