Broken Hearts, Broken Homes Still Abound Days After Devastating Oklahoma Tornado


A Red Cross worker assesses the destruction inflicted upon Moore, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.

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(CNN) — It’s another day — to mourn, to recover, to remember.

On Saturday, high school seniors in Moore, Oklahoma, will have time to celebrate their graduation. But they and others from the Oklahoma City suburb spent Friday reflecting on the mammoth tornado that ripped through their town days earlier.

One of those people at the center of the heartbreak is Amy Simpson, the principal at Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary School. In an emotional press conference, she spelled out what happened Monday in vivid detail — from upbeat award ceremonies in the morning to sheer terror in the afternoon, when the twister leveled her school and left seven dead.

“What started out as a normal day at Plaza Towers turned into a horrible, horrible thing for seven families,”she said.

Her students were among the 24 people killed by the twister — an EF5, the strongest category of tornado.

All of the Plaza Towers students who died were second- and third-graders. One Plaza Towers student was buried Thursday, then two more on Friday. There will be two more funerals Saturday, then one each on Monday and Friday of next week.

Second-grader Kyle Davis was one of those remembered in a packed funeral service Friday.

His kindergarten and second-grade teacher Emily Eischen described him as “always a thoughtful child” and a “sweet, sweet little angel.”

Kyle’s soccer coach, John Jackson, thanked the late boy’s family “for letting us be a part of a special child’s life.”

“What he gave us we can never repay you for,” Jackson said. “Everybody in this room will tell you the same thing.”

At Friday’s press conference, Simpson spoke of her meetings with parents, saying that “not one … blamed us.”

In fact, citizens, officials and others have lauded teachers and staff at Plaza Towers and other Moore schools for keeping students calm and putting themselves in harm’s way to protect them.

Superintendent Susie Pierce said Friday preliminary estimates indicate the twisters did $45 million worth of damage to buildings in the public school system — including to the two elementary schools that were leveled.

Getting things back to near normal will be a focus over the coming months, both from a logistical and psychological standpoint.

“We have had a great loss,” Pierce said. “Our hearts are broken.”

Already, the recovery process is well underway in and around Moore, with efforts to clean up debris and give neighbors a hand after tornadoes damaged or destroyed an estimated 12,000 homes.

Country music star Blake Shelton, a native Oklahoman, will lead a benefit concert for tornado victims on May 29. The show,, which will air that night on NBC, will feature Grammy winning artists Miranda Lambert, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire.

“Everyone has their way to help, and mine as an entertainer is to perform and to help raise money and awareness for this tragedy,” Shelton, a judge on the music talent show “The Voice,” said in a statement. “This is why I want to do this special and especially hold it in Oklahoma City, which is near ground zero.”

Some are also recovering from injuries sustained in the storm.

As of Friday, five adults remained hospitalized in varying states — one in good condition, three in fair condition and one in critical condition — according to a representative from University of Oklahoma Medical Center.

In addition, one child was in critical condition at Children’s Hospital, which is affiliated with the medical center.

Some 377 people total were treated for injuries as a result of this week’s storms, the Department of Emergency Management said. The University of Oklahoma Medical Center and Children’s Hospital together treated 93 patients, who ranged in age from younger than 4 years old to older than 85.

CNN’s Marlena Baldacci contributed to this report.

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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