Marlow firefighters respond to Moore tragedy

Posted in: News
By Allie Haddican
May 23, 2013 - 9:15:39 AM

Moore, Oklahoma is no stranger to the effects of a tornado. The term ‘May 3rd tornado’ puts the whole state on edge.
Moore’s May 3rd tornado had its part two just 14 years later.
The Monday afternoon tornado that had the whole world watching ripped through Moore in just an hour.
Warren Theatre wasn’t showing movies, but offering shelter to those that have lost their homes. Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools aren’t places to learn anymore, but landmarks of devastation.
The damage left by the storm starts as far west of Newcastle with signs down, trees uprooted and a torn apart bridge that runs along H.E. Bailey Turnpike.
With the tornado’s path running through neighborhoods and schools in Moore, immediate first responders were needed for search and rescue. Marlow is home to three of those first responders.
Fire Chief Ryan Hall got a statewide message asking for assistance in Moore after the tornado cleared the city limits.
Three volunteer firemen, Jeff Prater, Tommy Worthley and Michael Pope headed to Moore around 5:30 p.m. in response to that message only to arrive back in Marlow Tuesday mid-morning.
Prater, Worthley and Pope all said the scene in Moore was indescribable.
“It looked like a junkyard,” said Prater.
The firefighters were directed to the Warren Theatre where the triage was set up just after the storm had past.
The firefighters said that there were first responders from so many towns, they couldn’t keep track.
Prater said they made their way to the Plaza Towers Elementary for “careful debris removal.”
A picture of the school on Prater’s phone showed no school at all, but a pile of rubble. The firefighters said that high beams that used to be on the school were blocks away.
Rather than saying “house to house,” Prater would say “foundation to foundation” because the tornado left nothing of the home but the foundation.
“It makes you wonder, are we prepared here?” asked Prater.
Worthley said that he didn’t see anymore than two safe rooms still standing in the area he was stationed.
“Buy an underground storm shelter,” said Worthley, emphasizing on underground.
Hall doesn’t expect a request for their help in Moore in the near future because trained professionals and the National Guard are there.
Prater, also a teacher at the Marlow High School, teared up when talking about the kids at his school and, the destruction of Moore elementary schools.
“We just have to get our kids to understand they aren’t invincible,” said Prater.
Hall said kids have to understand and take seriously the fire and tornados drills they do in school for their safety.
Prater was on his way out to go back to the school to finish out the day of testing as a teacher because he is a volunteer fireman.
“These guys don’t quit,” said Hall. “That’s the true definition of a volunteer fireman.”