Thomas Asbury said he his fiancé, Leighann Bryson, are lucky to be alive after seeking shelter in a bathroom at their Pottawatomie County home, where they clenched each other's wrists and prayed as Sunday's tornado ripped apart their house.
Monday, they were working to salvage what few belongings they could from their home on Calle LaVenta Street, which is located northeast of U.S. 177 and Interstate 40, where numerous homes were damaged or destroyed.
Asbury, who said he is a proud Army veteran after serving in multiple deployments, including Iraq and Afghanistan, had a U.S. flag flying on what was left of their home Monday.
They, like many others in the neighborhood, were working to gather what items they could before more storms approached the area.
As the tornado neared Sunday, Asbury said they didn't have time to make it a neighbor's cellar, so they went to take shelter in the bathroom, where they could hear the outside walls tearing way.
"All I could think about was our loved ones," he said. "If we hadn't been holding a pillow over our heads, we would have been killed."
After spending time deployed overseas, Asbury said he couldn't imagine it would be a tornado that could take his life; they hoped and prayed everything would be OK.
"We opened our eyes and everything was gone," he said.
After the tornado ripped off the roof of their home and threw debris everywhere, they had to exit in what was once a window.
"It's completely destroyed," he said. "We're trying to salvage what we can," he said, adding they had just remodeled the home.
With the roof gone and at the house in shambles, amazingly, he said, the apple pie they had baked just before the storm still sat on the kitchen counter.
While their home was demolished, the home of a nearby neighbor,
Phil Mills, didn't have too much damage. Overall, though, most homes in the neighborhood were destroyed or sustained heavy damage.
Neighbor Shannon Hester rode out the storm in her cellar, where she said the storm sounded like a freight train. The tornado missed their home, but took their fence.
"God's hand was on us," she said.
As many worked to clear debris in that neighborhood Monday, District 1 County Commissioner Melissa Dennis walked that area as she had crews setting up portable toilets for those working in the area.
As she walked through, she visited with homeowners affected by total devastation, knowing full well how many of them feel after such a loss.
Her home was destroyed during the May 3, 1999 tornadoes, with that experience helping her to provide help and comfort to those affected by this storm.
Page 2 of 2 - "We have a lot of homes lost…my heart goes out to those people," Dennis said.
"No matter how much planning you do, you're never ready for this," Dennis said. "It'll take some time — there's a lot of clean up."
As tornadic storms moved into the Oklahoma City and Moore area Monday, the residents working to clear out debris by Sunday's storm were evacuated.
Pottawatomie County sheriff's deputies drove through the Watson Estates and used their loud speakers to warn residents of the threatening storms.