McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

May 22, 2013

McAlester Salvation Army responds to needs after tornadoes strike

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Counseling the first responders and feeding the hungry.

That’s what the McAlester Salvation Army has been doing since a monster tornado struck Moore, said Salvation Army Sergeant Rob Daniels of the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army was among the first units at the scene when at Plaza Tower Elementary in Moore after a huge tornado left a trail death and destruction.

On Monday he said his group fed more than a 1,000 people hot dogs, hamburgers  and drinks.

But the groups main duty is to provide counseling to the first responders.

 “We provide emotional and spiritual care,” he said.

“It’s  a hard thing to take the body of 7-year-old out of the rubble.”

He said when the effort turned from a rescue to recovery the whole mood changed.

He recalled when of the most striking moments occurred about  Monday night while rescuers were frantically digging through the rubble at Plaza Tower Elementary to find survivors and were told it was now a recovery effort.

“That’s when we knew there would be no more rescues. I saw the shoulders of these men just slump, the mood drastically changed.” he said. “They kept working but it was not the same.”

He said the first responders are very dedicated and the “keep working to their own detriment.”

 “We help them debrief and make sure they eat and drink and rest.”

Daniels said his team of five men and women were deployed to Shawnee at 6 a.m. on Monday morning when a tornado struck in New Castle.

Then at 3 p.m. when the tornado struck in Moore he said his team was deployed to Plaza Tower Elementary where on Wednesday nine children were reported dead.

Daniels said he’s been counseling first responders since 1992 and he’s been to disaster scenes such plane crashes and hurricanes, but this one was one of the worst.

“I’ve seen a lot of bad scenes but this one ... it’s terrible,” Daniels said.

He said his team will be deployed to Moore until Monday and he said those wanting to help the Salvation Army can visit www.salvationarmy.com.

“What we really need is monetary donations,” Daniels said.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore @mcalesternews.com.

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