Four Shawnee police officers were among local officers who responded to the city of Moore Monday after an EF-5 tornado caused massive devastation that one officer said “makes you want to go home and hug your kids.”
Four Shawnee police officers were among local officers who responded to the city of Moore Monday after an EF-5 tornado caused massive devastation that one officer said "makes you want to go home and hug your kids."
Several officers volunteered for the duty when Moore sent out a call for help moments after the tornado hit Monday afternoon. Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz sent Andrew Terry, Jay Keehn, Michael Myers and David Carpenter, who arrived shortly after the tornado passed and stayed overnight and into Tuesday.
Terry said when they arrived, they could see everything was leveled and the damage was severe.
He and Myers were assigned to work a square-mile area between 4th and 19th Streets and between Bryant and Sunnylane, where they would spend the next 12 to 14 hours working a combination of patrols and searching through the rubble for any possible survivors.
With piles of brick, walls and debris in their way, "We looked for cellars — we tried to locate bathrooms to see if anyone was there," Terry said, marking houses that were clear.
"It was hard to check a lot of those homes," Terry said, adding they would have to listen for any possible noises of survival.
He said they saw scared and confused dogs and cats running at large, most of them searching for the familiarity of the yards and houses that were once their homes.
"It was terrible," Myers said of the damage, adding that see it firsthand is much more severe.
"There's piles of wood and water running everywhere," he said, with toys scattered.
"It'll make you want to go home and hug your kids," Myers said of the destruction and loss of life.
"There is mass devastation up there," Terry added. While Shawnee's tornado damage was spotty, he said, an entire section of the city of Moore was completely gone.
As all the chaos unfolded, Terry said they worked as hard as they could. While they were doing well, there also was "a sense of helplessness," he said, as they wanted to do more.
As they encountered areas with nothing left, some homes were partially damage. One man, Terry said, was standing out looking around his neighborhood in complete shock.
"These people need help — we have a nature and drive to help," Terry said.
Keehn also worked a shift of patrols, with some of his time spent in an area near the Warren Theater, which sits adjacent to Interstate 35.
Keehn said they worked traffic and perimeter control while search and rescue operations were underway.
"We were walking around, helping maintain a perimeter," Keehn said.
At one point, as he stood in a residential area, Keehn couldn't believe the destruction.
"As far as you could see, everything was gone," Keehn said. "Everything was demolished."
Keehn, who said, "It's definitely tough to imagine what all those people are going through," said they also witnessed a huge outpouring of support.
He said he knows it will take a lot of time to recover and rebuild.
"It's going to be a month-long, year-long process," Keehn said.
While he was glad to help out, Keehn said he also felt powerless amongst the total destruction.
While the Moore area is receiving much assistance, Terry wants everyone to remember many are suffering in Shawnee as well.
"There's still families in Shawnee who lost everything," Terry said. "Everybody needs to keep praying."
Terry and Myers also worked scenes in Sunday's tornado near Shawnee, where Myers was eerily close to the twister that passed over I-40 at U.S. 177 as he responded to an accident scene.
In addition to Shawnee officers, others from this area who responded to help in Moore Monday included several of the investigators from the District Attorney's task force.