Local News

Tornado Victims Find Strength from Within, Get Nationwide Support

Posted May 6, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Donations from around the country are arriving in Oklahoma to help the tornado victims. Truckloads of donations are pouring in, not just from border states, but from places like Pennsylvania and Mississippi.

The survivors' homes and possessions are gone, but a parking lot in Moore, Oklahoma, has everything they need to survive.

"We have everything from food, furniture, baby items to batteries," says volunteer Todd Pruitt. "You name it, people have brought it here."

Donations are coming in faster than volunteers can unload them.

"It's coming in truckloads, by vans, by cars," Pruitt said. "I had one person come up and give me a large check yesterday in one hand, and in the other hand she had a bag full of pennies that a small child had given her."

Phil Fandel drove a truckload in from the town of Bowie, Texas, a small town with a lot of big hearts.

"It makes you feel great just trying to help out," Fandel said. "Just try to put yourself in their position, you would want the help."

One woman said this was the first time in her life that she had to wake up in the morning without a toothbrush and clothes.

Between this week's deadly tornadoes and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, the people of Oklahoma have seen more than their share of tragedy during the past four years.

"There was the sucking in of air, and then the windows went, and there was just glass everywhere," says Debi Nakanaski. "We had stuff falling on our heads and the building shook."

Nakanaski was not talking about the killer tornadoes. She survived the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, but many of her friends did not.

"You could hear people moaning and screaming, and people walking around dazed," Nakanaski said. "All of the buildings around here were effected, and it was like what you think hell would be like."

There is a memorial being built where the bomb went off. People in the city say they survived the tragedy by pulling together. "I think it was all of us coming together helped a tremendous amount," Nakanaski said. "I helped people I didn't even know."

"People care about each other in Oklahoma, and they show it at a time like this," says tornado survivor Retha Jantz. "It's wonderful."

People in Oklahoma are stronger than the bricks their homes are built of. Mother nature may have destroyed their homes, but those who escaped with their lives say they will rebuild.