McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

November 20, 2013

As Moore rebuilds, survivors still face loss

MOORE — Six months after the May 20 tornado, Moore is rebuilding at a rapid pace. However, for many who lost everything in the storm recovery is an uphill battle.

“Every day I am still living tornado, tornado, tornado,” Jaime Russell-Bartlett said. Her family home was lost. It once stood about four houses from Briarwood Elementary School, which was hit directly. Her sister, who lived 14 houses down, also lost her home.

The family is rebuilding about one mile from where they used to live, and Russell-Bartlett’s sister has bought an already constructed home. Now the sisters will live 25 houses apart instead of 14.

Leaving Moore was never an option.

“It’s not going to do me any good to run,” Russell-Bartlett said. “I grew up in Moore. That whole left side of Moore is where my life is. People who grabbed their stuff and ran out of Oklahoma, I don’t understand.”

Six months after the storm, she is immersed in home construction.

“It’s a big strain on your entire life,” she said.

The process is stressful for the entire family. She said her son got a bad grade on a first grade assignment because he couldn’t remember his address. Russell-Bartlett said nobody realized that the little boy had lost his home and had since had three new addresses.

While they live in a rental home and work with builders and contractors on the new house, the family continues to deal with insurance companies.

Then there are the times when the family is simple faced with the fact that things they took for granted are gone.

“The other day when it was so cold, I realized I don’t have a winter coat.” Off to the store she went. Again.

Everything vanished on May 20.

“There was nothing salvageable,” she said.

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