World & Nation

Tornado survivors pick up the pieces, wonder about where to live

Briarwood Elementary School
Amber Ford, a teaching assistant, goes through the rubble of a second grade classroom she works in at the Briarwood Elementary School.
(Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

MOORE, Okla.--Judy and Brian Overlinge were thankful.

“We’re one of the lucky ones,” said Judy, 54. “Half of our house is still standing.”

The couple -- along with a son, a neighbor and five dogs -- had taken refuge inside an old septic tank that had been converted into a storm shelter. Their son held the door shut as it shuddered against the wind, which roared like a jet engine, and then the vents blew out and debris flew in and then it was all over. They all survived. But their home didn’t. It’s a total loss.

Built in 1963, their home may have ruined many of their things too. It had asbestos in its insulation, which has since glommed onto their favorite belongings, including a number of trinkets from a lifetime of world travel.


Brian, 54, talked about picking up the pieces that were left at what was his house on Wednesday, realizing that what he was collecting would probably have to be thrown away.

And yet.

“It’s just things,” said Judy.

“It’s just things,” said Brian.


There’s one thing they’ll miss.

“A clock a man made for our wedding,” Brian said. Thirty years ago. Judy sighed. The man is now dead.

What was his name?

“Mr. Roberts,” Judy said. His first name was lost to memory, and now his clock to the tornado.

They’re currently staying in student housing at Oklahoma City University, where Brian works, and arrived at the First Baptist Church to file a claim with FEMA. They were still waiting to meet their insurance agent. “He’s probably busy,” Brian deadpanned.

Olga Cordero, 35, was similarly gracious while visiting the First Baptist Church to pick up supplies for her family.

“I’m so thankful we got away alive. I can’t imagine living without any of them,” she said of her husband and three daughters.

Their home was next to Briarwood Elementary School. Olga says she would have been killed if she’d been in the house.


She, her husband, her daughters and her brother were now all cooped up in her sister’s home, where her brother and her daughters will probably have to sleep on the floor (which she chuckled about). But she felt proud of what’s happened nonetheless.

“The support from my family, my community, it’s awesome,” she said. On Thursday, she’d just gotten a replacement pair of glasses free as a donation. She also managed to recover important papers and photographs of her children from the ruins of her home.

What else does she need now?

“A place to live!” she and her husband, Edmundo Jaimes, said in unison, and then they laughed.


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