News 9 Storm Trackers Give Moore Tornado Victim Gift
MOORE, Oklahoma - Five years ago, this month, storm trackers Val and Amy Castor met a couple in the direct path of the Moore tornado. Amy took with her a memento from that meeting and on this five-year anniversary wanted to return it.
Rebecca and Dan Garland remember May 20, 2013, running to their underground shelter outside.
"Within 30 seconds after they closed the door, it hit," Rebecca said.
The Moore tornado showed no mercy on the neighborhoods in its path, including their Garlands, whose home took a direct hit.
"It was so evil sounding," she said. "It was like jet engines just sitting on top of you and it just seemed like it sat on top of us for a long time."
Inside their storm shelter, Dan held the door shut to protect his wife and eight of their neighbors.
"It almost felt like it was being lifted up," Dan said. "I felt that handle turning in my hand and I thought 'wow this thing is trying to come open.'"
"We all just kind of huddled in the middle and prayed," Rebecca said.
Then, it was over.
"We came out to total destruction all around," Rebecca remembered.
Their home of 14 years was gone. Having tracked the storm, Val and Amy Castor documented the aftermath in what used to be the Garland's neighborhood.
"We were being careful walking along the ground because we were afraid of all the splinters coming up out of the ground," said Amy Castor, News 9 Storm Tracker.
Among piles of debris is where they first met the Garlands
"We started finding little things," said Rebecca "I used to have a collection of the Wizard of Oz and I found a little tin man and I remember giving that to Amy."
Now, five years later, the Castors returned to Moore with a surprise
"Well I brought something," Amy said as she pulled Tin Man out of her bag. "All this time, I felt like he needed to come back to you."
"Ok, well I'll take him back," Rebecca said laughing.
The Garlands are now in a newly built home, this time with a safe room inside, the memories of May 20 tucked away inside several photo books.
"I had lots of shoes, but I only had one of each one," Rebecca said laughing as she showed off her photos of the aftermath.
"I try to find humor in life you know just about everything," she said. "After you lose everything, you just think, I'm just gonna collect memories. I'm not gonna collect stuff anymore."
However, there's some "stuff" worth being replaced.
"We thought it would be neat if you had the whole collection," Amy said as she surprised Rebecca with a shadow box filled with all the Wizard of Oz collection.
"Oh, you're kidding, how adorable," Rebecca said. "That's precious. He's gotta get in here. I love it. Thank you so much!"
With Dorothy and the gang back together, Rebecca plans to keep this collection in the safe room. However, they still have the shelter outside.
"It served us well," Dan said about the shelter that saved their lives five years ago. "We survived, and we thank God for that."
"We don't often get to come and meet people in the path of the tornado and getting to meet them and talk to them and hear their story," said Val Castor, News 9 Storm Tracker.
The Garland's story is like so many from Moore, who despite the loss, decided there's really no place like home.