May 1999 Tornado Survivor Reflects On Sheltering Under Overpass


Sunday, March 17th 2019, 10:54 pm
By: News 9


May 3, 1999 will mark the 20th anniversary of the largest, most destructive tornado outbreak in Oklahoma history. It was the first time an F5 hit the Oklahoma City metro area. Forty people died from 72 tornadoes that destroyed more than 3,300 homes that day.

“It was like somebody opened the gates of hell,” said Stuart Earnest, who was in the path of the tornado.

It's been 20 years since Earnest stood under the overpass at Shield's and I-35 in Moore. Doing so now, he said it takes his breath away.

“It's making my heart beat fast,” he admitted.

The overpass he took shelter under is long gone, but the new one stands as a reminder to what he experienced here.

“It was the most violent thing I’ve ever endured,” he said.

Stuart was among a dozen people on the road that day that huddled under the overpass as the eye of an F5 twister passed overhead.

“I got under the bridge, there was a place for me to get under,” Earnest said. “I got up on the ledge and laid down. We didn't have anything to hang onto.”

Somehow, he survived with only a few cuts and bruises. As for the strangers with him under that bridge, all but one woman, Tram Thu Bui, 23, made it out alive. Bui was seeking shelter under the overpass with her family when she disappeared. Her body was found buried under debris. Her husband and two two children survived.

“I still don't understand why God let me stay,” he said. “She had every reason to live. She had two beautiful kids a husband that loved her. It was sad. I felt guilty.”

Among all the heartbreak and devastation was a tiny miracle. A Grady County deputy found a 10-month-old baby face down in the mud, about 100 feet from her leveled home. Little Aleah was ripped from her mother's arms by mother nature's monster but miraculously only suffered minor injuries.

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