Resilience and recovery in aftermath of Oklahoma tornado

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A flag is placed in the foundation of a flattened home a day after the tornado devastated the town Moore, Oklahoma. Photo: Reuters/Adrees Latif

The resilience and recovery in Oklahoma - what a tornado takes and leaves behind.

When a mother is left with nothing but the foundations of her home, a few books and a saucepan, after Mother Nature destroys life as she knows it, but her three daughters survive, she smiles and says, "It's just stuff!"

Amber Kriesel and her husband Nathan physically wrapped themselves around their children, hiding in the bathtub, to protect them from 200 mile an hour winds.

They heard it coming like a locomotive, closed their eyes, felt it strip their home of its exterior and interior, and leave them completely exposed. As it's power intensified the metal bath began to buckle and contort under the pressure......then it stopped, the tornado moved away and left this family of five alive.

Bryan Hutton grew up on 149th Street in Moore, Oklahoma and has experienced tornadoes before, but never directly. He shot this video 15 minutes before he ran for cover with his young son to their shelter. When it hit his family home he described it to me "like a roar, like a train coming." Then he said "your ears pop and the air slowly gets sucked out." Terrifying.

Then, he said, it passed and straight away he opened the trapdoor to let air back in. He said "looking around was like a scene from the Mad Max film. I couldn't see a soul, I couldn't hear anyone, and then I watched the storm go on to destroy the rest of Moore."

This photograph shows the moment before he ran for cover and what was left such a short time later. Until you see it you cannot imagine destruction on such a quick and all-consuming scale.

Before tornado hits Oklahoma. Credit: Jennifer Hutton-Haskins
Aftermath of tornado in Oklahoma. Credit: Jennifer Hutton-Haskins

Bryan knew who, in his neighbourhood, had stayed to "battle it out" so ran to what was left of those homes. He dug around, rescued his best friend and his parents from underneath the debris, describing people as "not penned in but encapsulated." He winched his jeep out of the middle of his mother's kitchen, it still worked, so he used it as a makeshift ambulance.

The storm stripped his mother Madge's lounge walls of its paint but left her bed still made. It wrapped her neighbour's jeep around a tree, but her television is still in its rightful place on a wall, undamaged. She told me:

I can finally get a new kitchen now, but I need walls for it first. I've also got to get my lawnmower out of my neighbour's pool and my hot tub out of their bathroom!

Mustering up humour is hard to imagine when faced with just rubble as your shelter, until you witness it first hand. Then, it's a remarkable privilege. "If we don't laugh, we'll cry. It can't get any worse can it? " she said.

The word resilience could easily have been over-used this week, to the point of having no meaning at all. But there is no other word for it. However, you can always add to it, with the word incredible.