Moore residents evaluate damage, show resilience and thanks in wake of May 20, 2013 EF-5 tornado

MOORE, Okla. - There's no question the level of devastation Moore residents have seen. Not once, not twice, but three times tornadoes have disrupted life for the Oklahoma City suburb.

May 3, 1999.  May 8, 2003.  May 20, 2013.

The latest storm tore through town Monday just after 3 p.m. -- early in the day for a tornado.

RELATED: Stories of Moore destruction, recovery (http://bit.ly/tornadostories)

The EF-5 leveled homes, destroyed a hospital and two schools and claimed 24 lives.

Still, the spirits of Moore's residents aren't destroyed. They've been through this before.

Home is home, even without power.

On Wednesday morning, an elderly man peered out the door of his home on Bouziden Drive. He gladly accepted a hot meal from volunteers as they went neighborhood to neighborhood. 

The man and his wife were without electricity. Neither one had any clue how long it would be until crews could repair the downed power lines. But they refused to leave.

Instead, they offered thanks for the meal and a hug as payment.

Moore resident David Bird has a home on 6th Street. He described taking shelter with his family in a bathroom.

All of a sudden "it just felt different," he said.

As he looked outside, Bird said he saw black skies, debris whipping around like hair and cellphone towers swaying in the wind.

"I can't get those images out of my head," he said.

PHOTOS: Picking up the pieces (http://bit.ly/may20photos) 

On Hazelwood Street near the Whispering Oaks housing edition, one of Moore's hardest-hit neighborhoods, Lashowann Smith stood outside with an umbrella Wednesday, watching as workers repaired the gaping hole in her roof. The damage to her house was nothing compared to the piles of rubble just a few blocks away.

Smith and her young daughter, Aaliyah Moore, survived the tornado, but they didn't know the other was safe for hours after the storm passed.

Moore was at school at the nearby Applecreek Elementary near 14th Street when the sirens sounded. She and her classmates took shelter in three different locations before settling on a bathroom. 

"It was crazy and scary and insane," said Moore.

Smith tried to reach her daughter about half an hour before the twister made its way into town, but after being notified the school was on lockdown, she returned home. It wasn't long before her mother, who has a storm shelter just blocks away, picked her up and they took shelter together.

Thirty minutes later the two emerged unscathed. They would then walk two miles through the rubble to find Moore. It was nearly two hours later that they were finally reunited.

"We're just glad everybody is OK," said Smith. "Our house can be repaired."

Richard and Tammy Ferguson are OK too. Their home is now in shambles, but neither was there when the tornado bore down on their neighborhood.

RELATED: How You Can Help (http://bit.ly/oklarelief)

The Fergusons have already poured over their belongings twice since residents were allowed in Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday the couple awaited a FEMA worker to sign off on what was left.

In the face of the destruction, the Newcastle police officer and his wife had smiles on their faces and their spirits were high, even though their home is nothing but a pile of rubble.

"We'll be alright," she said.

Her husband added, "We have each other."

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