Local residents have connections to Oklahoma

  • Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 1:18 a.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 1:33 a.m.
This Tuesday, May 21, 2013 aerial photo shows, from bottom to top, the path Monday's tornado took through Moore, Okla. The huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds. (AP Photo/Kim Johnson Flodin)
This Tuesday, May 21, 2013 aerial photo shows, from bottom to top, the path Monday's tornado took through Moore, Okla. The huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds. (AP Photo/Kim Johnson Flodin)

Dr. Jim Dunkin, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, was at a church meeting when he heard about the devastating tornado that touched down in Moore, Okla. He grew up in the Sooner state, but his sister still lives there.

Dunkin tried twice to call his sister, Debbie Smith, who lives in Oklahoma City, and reached her on the second attempt. Smith, an attorney and former prosecutor, has an office in Moore. She was not at her office when the tornado struck, but watched from her home.

Dunkin said his wife, Leslie, sent him a text about the storm and up until that point he had not heard about the destruction. Dunkin immediately called Smith, his younger sister, who told him she was fine.

Growing up in Oklahoma the family was used to storms and in fact “tornadoes are a way of life,” Dunkin said.

Dunkin said the people of Oklahoma have shown how they band together and help their neighbors.

Smith said her practice in Moore was not devastated by the storms, but for a time she didn’t know whether her law partner was safe. Even on Tuesday afternoon, Smith had still not spoken with her partner, but did receive a message that she was fine.

“It’s a total disaster. I was living here when we had the bombing. It really reminds me of that,” she said by phone. More than 100 people were killed in 1995 bombing following a domestic terrorist attack in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma officials have lowered the death toll from Monday’s storm to closer to 24, lower than the initial 51 that was reported shortly after the storm struck.

A similarly destructive tornado struck Oklahoma in 1999, killing 40 people.

Smith said a relative of her daughter-in-law’s extended family was killed during the storm and that family member’s child was hospitalized with critical injuries.

She also has a friend who was in the impacted area, but who is fine although they’ve not been able to speak by phone.

Smith said neighbors are helping neighbors with supplies such as bottled water, diapers and other needed items.

The saddest part about watching all of the news coverage, Smith said, has been seeing the schools leveled by the storms. Smith is a former school teacher.

“They were showing the schools that were hit and you just knew it was bad,” she said.

Smith, who has lived in Oklahoma for 43 years, said people “always think it’s not going to hit, but this one is very sobering.”

She asked for everyone’s prayers for those impacted by the devastation.

‘Tough, stubborn people’

Isaac Doyal of Salisbury, was also concerned for relatives still in Oklahoma. Doyal, an Oklahoma native, remembers storms there growing up.

“We are kind of accustomed to this,” he said. But Doyal never expected the same such devastating storm to hit the same areas that were struck in 1999.

His aunt, Sue Lokey, and her husband, Wade, and their adult son, Jason, were “in the middle of ground zero,” Doyal said.

He said they are all fine, but he was worried when he couldn’t reach them right away. He sent his relatives a message via social networking site Facebook and received word four or five hours later they were safe.

“They were at home, but the home wasn’t destroyed,” Doyal said.

He said his aunt and uncle lost power at their home, but were able to reply to him on Facebook via their cell.

“Everyone was trying to call everyone,” he said.

He said right now his family has been helping other friends recover personal belongings and their pets.

A friend of the Lokeys got into a shower and the shower was the only thing left after the storm.

Doyal also remarked on the courage of Oklahomans.

“We are tough, stubborn people. They get out there to help and it doesn’t matter if you know anybody,” he said.

Community Chapter Executive Nancy Litton said no Rowan residents have been deployed from the Hanford Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross at this time to provide disaster relief. Litton said things will start to happen over the next couple of days.

There are volunteers who are prepared to go if called, but many of the Red Cross volunteers have come from areas closer to the event, she said.

But she said support at home provides volunteers with the ability to help during national events.

Providing support

There are two people who represent the Carolina Piedmont Region, of which Rowan County is part of, who will be deployed to serve in Oklahoma.

Regional Communications Director Jennifer Franklin said Cabarrus County resident Harry Gedney and Stanly County resident Jerry Frappier will be deployed to the Oklahoma area.

The Red Cross has supplies stockpiled in case of disaster, so they are not collecting tangible donations at this time. However, the Red Cross is looking for monetary donations, which will help with relief and rebuilding efforts, as well as replenishing depleted supplies.

Litton said the Red Cross is still collecting donations for rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy that struck much of the eastern United States in October 2012. She said the Red Cross will continue to collect funds until all of the needs are filled.

While the Red Cross is still collecting donations for other relief efforts, if anyone would like to donate specifically to the Oklahoma project, send a check to 1930 W. Jake Alexander Blvd., Salisbury, NC 28147 with “Oklahoma” written on the memo line.  Donations can also be made online at www.redcross.org, by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS,  or texting “Red Cross” to 90999, which will create a $10 donation. The money is incorporated into the customer’s wireless cell phone bill.

Anyone who’d like to volunteer must complete an application and online registration for training via the Red Cross website. 

Local business, Team Chevrolet, is also offering its help to victims impacted by the tornado with a donation drive. The car dealership will sell $1 raffle tickets now through May 29 and the proceeds will be given for the Salvation Army of Rowan County’s Oklahoma Tornado Relief. For each $1 donated, one raffle ticket will be given for the chance to win a spot for a boy or girl who are in first through eighth grade at the Steve Smith Football ProCamp. The camp experience is valued at $150 and will be held June 10 and June 11 from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte.

The winner of this camp experience will learn from and interact with Steve Smith, receive a limited edition Steve Smith Football ProCamp T-shirt, an autographed camp team photo with Steve Smith, also opportunities to participate in contests and win prizes. Team Chevrolet will also include a “Camp Bracelet” that will provide a child two sports drinks, lunch and one snack each day. The camp spot is a $150 value.

One raffle ticket winner will receive one month (one per week) of free car washes at the dealership, or a large autographed Carolina Panthers jersey of Luke Kuechly, or a Carolina Panthers baseball cap.

Tickets can be purchased at the front desk of Team Chevrolet of Salisbury, 404 S. Jake Alexander Blvd., Salisbury. Cash or check donations accepted. Please make checks to “Salvation Army Oklahoma Tornado Relief.”

For more information, contact Shelley Smith at Team Chevrolet at 704-216-8000 ext 197.

Post intern Rebecca Rider contributed to this story.

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