'Oklahoma Spirit' Keeps Tornado Survivors Strong

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MOORE, Okla. -- As thousands of residents face the reality of starting over, many say "Oklahoma spirit" is what keeps them strong. It's a mentality marked by neighbor helping neighbor.

And nowhere is it more alive than in the tornado battered city of Moore, where the tragedy is bringing out the best in people -- both near and far.

"I've only seen one thing that's 100 percent and that's Jesus Christ," Moore resident Lester Stahly told CBN News.
    
For many in Moore's tight-knit community, retelling where they were when the F-5 tornado hit is therapeutic.

Stahly showed CBN News the storm shelter behind his house of more than 20 years and recalled how he called his wife from work to tell her to take cover.

"Ten or 15 seconds later, I heard the 'train' coming in and then I heard 'kaboom,'" he said.

He knew what it was: the elm tree in the backyard smashing the shelter's concrete top. What he didn't know was whether his wife survived.

"Am I going to be able to talk to my wife of 39 years?" Stahly wondered.

His wife, Wanda, says it's nothing short of a miracle that she survived.

"A lot of people don't believe in miracles, but I do," she said.

The damage on one street served as evidence of how indiscriminate the tornado was: one house is completely leveled, while another structure just across the street is still standing.

But the one thing these scenes have in common is they're bringing people together.

David Molyneux, who lives a few blocks away, noted "less than 500 feet and we could have nothing."

Molyneux never met the Stahlys, but since his home and family are okay, he felt the need to help in spite of his own personal hardship.

"I was laid off my job Friday so I've got nothing but time on my hands," he said.

Molyneux is just one of many volunteering with CBN's Operation Blessing, which is on the ground offering disaster relief in the form of food, labor and prayer.     

Operation Blessing has teamed up with Highland Baptist Church. Its pastor, Dave Evans, watched as the tornado spiraled toward the church and turned at the last minute. He believes it was spared for a reason.

"So that we might be here and be a hub and just be able to love on people," Pastor Evans told CBN News. "I don't know how many hundreds of people I've been able to pray with."

For those receiving their help, it means the world.     

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John Jessup

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John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.