'Resilient' Oklahomans Picking Up the Pieces

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MOORE, Okla. -- President Obama heads to Moore, Okla., this weekend to honor the victims of Monday's deadly tornado.

Meanwhile, people there are still picking up the pieces of their lives after a long and difficult week.

It's become a familiar scene: A helping hand finds something of value, like a family Bible, and puts it aside for the owner.

On Southwest 14 Street, most homes were completely leveled. Remnants of people's lives are scattered through the debris. VHS tapes, DVDs, a dishwasher overturned on a bathtub, kitchen utensils are all evidence this place that's no longer inhabitable was once full of life.

Nevertheless, Moore resident Suzanne Sells, now a high school special education teacher, told CBN News she's "blessed."

"I'm blessed. I've got help. Not everybody has that," said Moore, whose former high school classmates are helping her sift through her belongings.

One former Vietnam veteran whose home was destroyed by the twister managed to retrieve several sentimental treasures from the wreckage of his Moore, Okla., home. Click below to watch WTKR reporter Mike Mather's story:

But the "find" she's most grateful for is her daughter, Claire, who was in Plaza Towers Elementary when the storm hit. The tornado took a direct path through the school, killing several students.

A last-minute decision to move her daughter, Jaden, and her classmates from a hallway into a bathroom saved their lives.

"They piled the kids on top of each other," Sells recalled.

Claire's mom got to thank her daughter's teacher on her last day of school.

"I just gave her a big hug and was like, 'Thank you for not putting them in the hall. That would have collapsed on them. I'm so grateful," she said.

Just like kids anywhere, the children of Moore are eager to say goodbye to the school year and a rough week as they look forward to a summer vacation and making happier memories.

Asked about her big summer plans, Jaden says they're probably going to the country where she plans to ride the "four wheeler."

Meanwhile, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin told CBN News coordinating the response to the storm has been difficult. The F-5 tornado damaged 13,000 homes and affected tens of thousands more people.

Fallin says Oklahomans are "resilient people."

"It is what Oklahoma is about. We're resilient people," Gov. Fallin said. "We believe in neighbor helping neighbor, and we believe in just getting the job done."

The governor says it's important to remind the storm's victims "not to give up hope."

"Things will get better," Fallin said. "And through much prayer and support, we're going to get over this. We're not going to go under it. We're going over it."

Helping spread that message are volunteers like Lariat Miller, who is delivering meals with CBN's Operation Blessing.

"Maybe there are other things we could be doing, but this is what we're called to do." Miller said. "This is what Christ called us to do."

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CBN News
John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

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.