A cul-du-sac in the Briarwood neighborhood of Moore, Oklahoma. This housing development was one of the hardest hit by the May 20th tornado. Devastation was total.
Three blocks away, homes were untouched. The tornado's path was precise and discriminating.
As if a tornado never passed through. The juxtaposition of still standing homes alongside their devastated neighbors was a wholly bizarre sight.
Looming clouds hint at the powerful weather patterns that effect those who make their lives below these skies.
German natives and longtime Oklahoma residents, Marion Rivera and cousin, Ingrid Jones, sit in Marion's former driveway. Marion boasted about her talent for decorating, "My house was filled to the gill with stuff, but everything had its place."
American flags dotted the scarred landscape and flew as symbols of resilience and strength.
During the May 20th tornado, winds reached 210 mph. Items from Moore residences were located in neighboring homes, towns, and states.
Trees which stood in the tornado's path were stripped bare of their bark and foliage.
This toilet had strong pipes.
Stately lion standing guard. Scanning for copper piping, scrap metal, and electronics, looters from around the country descended on Moore to prey upon properties destroyed in the tornado. .
Bobby Altstatt of the Oklahoma City Police Department. Police patrolled tornado damaged areas to arrest any suspected looters.
One contractor who I spoke to about cleanup shared, "I put items that might have belonged to a child closer to the curb so that the child who lived here will have a better chance of finding a piece of their home to hold onto."
Sarah Goodman, age 18, stands in front of her childhood home which was damaged beyond repair during the tornado. Sarah graduated from Southmoore High School days after the tornado struck. Optimistic at the prospect of a fresh start, Sarah will soon call the freshman dorms home when she begins at University of Central Oklahoma in the fall.
The monkey left behind, still smiles. Scattered stuffed animals remind of some of Moore's younger victims.
Sterling, age 9. I met Sterling one evening while she was looking for her missing dog, a German Shepard named, Sam. Even though three weeks had passed since the tornado hit Moore, Sterling wasn't giving up hope that she might find her beloved dog. Sterling's Sam was one of thousands of pets lost or displaced by the tornado.
Stuffed animals hang on the gates where Plaza Towers Elementary once stood, in memoriam to the seven children who perished here.
Salvation Army volunteers serve hot meals in the hot sun. Thousands of volunteers from all over the country packed Moore's streets to assist with the relief efforts.
Free food, clothes & supplies here. The various churches in town opened their doors to tornado victims offering free services and supplies donated from around the country.
Nicole Jones sits near the storm cellar in the home where she and her teenage daughter once rented rooms. Like many in Moore, Nicole did not have renters insurance and is now in the process of filing for FEMA benefits.
Stray fridge: biohazard. The rotting meat around town made for a fine stench in the humid air. These and other biohazards were removed by separate crews that searched specifically for this class of waste.
Homeowners stand in front of their home scheduled for demo. They are one of the few homes on their street to have a storm shelter and invited neighbors to share the small space on May 20th. I was surprised to learn relatively how few homes in Moore had shelters. This will soon change; state funded programs are now offering subsides for the construction of home shelters.
Sun sets over Schwinn Air-Dyne.
Loren. Oklahoman by way of Texas.
Victor, contract worker hired to clear debris. Victor resides in nearby Shawnee, Oklahoma, which was also affected by the May tornados. Rural Shawnee has not received the same level of relief attention and aid as neighboring Moore.
Home 4 sale. Needs work. Flashes of humor bring some much needed levity to an otherwise bleak situation. Overwhelmingly, I was surprised an encouraged by the optimism and good spirits displayed by Moore residents in the wake of this tragedy.
Wayne. Bulldozer operator for private contractor. Though debris removal is offered by the government at no cost, many homeowners elect to hire private companies who can clear property more efficiently than volunteers or FEMA. Their insurance then covers these costs.
Mannequin lost his shirt...and pants...and arms and head.
Skylit garage waiting for demo.
Loan office: "New Customers Welcome."
Flag and tree bone.
Frank, in front of his tree. Debris removal now complete, Frank takes one last look around the property where he raised his family. Longtime resident, Frank does not plan to rebuild in Moore.
Concrete slab. The final remains of a home that once contained a family. Many of those affected by the tornado have decided to rebuild their lives outside of Moore, some outside of Oklahoma altogether. New houses, new neighborhoods, however, will be rebuilt in place of where these foundations once stood. But, in shifting the courses of so many of its residents, the tornado of May 20, 2013 indelibly shifted the future of an entire town.
The tornado crushed homes, not spirits.