Moore tornado memorial service moving for survivors


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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 5/26/2013 11:59 pm Published: 5/26/2013 11:34 pm


Hundreds of people of various faiths gathered at the First Baptist Church of Moore Sunday for a special memorial prayer service.

The service, called "OK Strong: Coming Together In Faith," was hosted by Governor Mary Fallin, and featured prayers led by religious leaders of various faiths, as well as songs sung by several different area choirs.

It began with prayer from the pastor of First Baptist Church of Moore, Kevin Clarkson.

After a song from the Ambassador Choir, Rabbi Vered Harris of B'Nai Israel Synagogue in Oklahoma City led a prayer.

There was also a moment of silence started by Archbishop Paul Coakley of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese, and later songs led by Christian music celebrity Dennis Jernigan.

Governor Mary Fallin filled the service with touching reminders of the devastation that happened, like a small paper she found in the ruins of Plaza Towers Elementary School that a first grade student had written. It was addressed to a teacher, and told her how she was the best teacher in the world.

But the speaker who seemed to capture the crowd's hearts the most, was Briarwood Elementary School teacher, Waynel Mayes. She told the story of how she and her students survived the tornado.

She described how she instructed them to sing songs and play instruments to distract them. As the tornado got closer, she told them to sing louder until they couldn't hear her voice, then they could scream.

She said they sang several different songs, but what stuck out to her was a student who asked if they could sing "Jesus Loves Me."

Mayes described seeing debris start to fall, and dirt fly in before everything went black. Then she told the crowd how she kept the kids busy until help arrived, telling them that they were heroes for how they handled the tornado.

As she told the story, a line of students filed in, each carrying a flower. After she spoke, the kids sang "Jesus Loves Me."


"It was just very inspirational, and I feel like it really brought up my spirits," Matthew Ruiz, who attended the service, said. "It was very emotional.

Ruiz lives on the edge of the town of Moore. His family's home was spared, but on Sunday night he still shed tears during the service.

"It was very, you know, traumatizing to see all of that [destruction]," he said. "I'm just ready to get down here in Moore and help out."

And after all the people of Moore had been through in the previous week, Ruiz said Sunday's service was exactly what they needed.

"It's been a very tough and hard week on everyone involved," he said. "And just for everyone to come together, I think, it was lifting the spirits of everyone."

And before Ruiz headed home, he asked that others continue to pray for Moore.



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