Although homes and businesses have been rebuilt since the May 20 twisters ripped through Moore, people’s lives are a different story.
One of countless victims from the devastating tornadoes, Waldroop still suffers from physical and emotional scars that may never heal. Her daughter, Shannon Quick, died at her side as the EF5 twister mangled sections of Moore and southwest Oklahoma City, and an 8-year-old grandson still is recovering from serious wounds.
Waldroop and her grandson, Jackson, already have undergone multiple surgeries, and more are scheduled for December. For the last six months, Waldroop has been recuperating from a shattered left heel and an injured right wrist.
At the same time, Jackson underwent operations to repair a broken femur, pelvis and shin. Like his grandmother, he has another surgery scheduled next month connected to an injury that sheared off half of his buttocks.
“It’s kinda like you’re on autopilot every single day,” Waldroop said from her son’s home in Stillwater. “I don’t know if I’ll ever work again. I have pain in places I’ve never had before.”
The tragedy and those last few minutes with her daughter rarely escape Waldroop’s thoughts.
“I think about it daily,” she said. “I went onto my daughter’s Facebook page for the first time recently, and on May 19, she wrote for everyone to be weather alert and safe. I’m constantly reminded of her last words, calling for her boys, wanting to make sure they were OK.”
Another grandson, 14-year-old Tanner, was uninjured. Both youngsters now live with their father.
Still, Waldroop hopes she can be reunited someday soon with her grandsons.
“They are without their mama, and I feel like they need some woman around,” she said. “I know Shannon would want us to go on, but it’s hard to give up on a part of your life. You feel like a part of you is missing. There’s a part of you that’s gone, and nothing will ever be the same again.”
Waldroop, her daughter and the two boys lived together at the Moore home, and all four were huddled together in a small closet when the twister struck.
As part of the healing process, the family came together last Saturday at Shannon’s favorite restaurant, Outback Steakhouse, to celebrate her life and birthday. She would have turned 42 on Thanksgiving Day.
Waldroop’s son, Jeremy Soulek, said the tornado’s aftermath has been difficult to cope with for the entire family.
“I hear her (Waldroop) make the comment, ‘I wish I could erase what happened the last six months.’ But when you’re dealing with a situation like this, there’s not much time to think. You have to get on with things. You can’t stop life,” he said.
But there is good news. “Jackson is back at school, and although he still needs more surgeries, he’s walking on his own and kicking a football,” he said.
Michelle Evans consumed more hot dogs than she ever expected after her duplex was blown away in the tornado. Rescue teams and volunteer groups were offering quick, easy meals for displaced residents, but one special hotdog provided by Riverlife Church in Moore led her to a new house and a renewed sense of stability.
Evans; her boyfriend, Craig Smith; and their five children — ages 5 to 14 — now live in a three-bedroom home built by God’s Pit Crew, a Virginiabased ministry program, and Riverlife.
“They (Riverlife) were serving food to the people who had been affected, and I went over there for a hot dog a couple of weeks after the tornado. They were interviewing families who lost their homes, so I told them what happened to us,” she said.
By chance, Evans was one of two people selected to receive a new, fully furnished home with no mortgage.
The home, complete with a backyard storm shelter, was built in 19 days, followed by an Extreme Makeover-type ceremony that left the Evans clan blindfolded until the big reveal. It was covered by multiple news organizations.
The family had lived in the duplex only four weeks before the tornado hit, and they know they’re lucky to be alive. w“It (the tornado) was coming right at us, and we ended up in a freezer at the Neighborhood Market,” Evans said.
Aside from having no home, Evans lost her job as a maid in Tuttle because she couldn’t get to work since the family vehicle had been totaled.
“Nobody would hire me because they said I had no stability,” Evans recalled during a recent interview with Oklahoma Gazette. “It’s a whole different story now, and we’re settling in. Before this, I was depressed and the kids were sleeping on floors and I had debts I couldn’t pay.”
Now, Evans and the family attend Riverlife Church. Part of the home’s construction included scriptures that were written on the living room walls, including Luke 1:37, which reads, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Evans said she knows that’s true following the turmoil and angst her family endured since May 20.