Oklahoma tornado: 'You can rebuild homes, not people'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA drive through Moore reveals the scale of devastation

Francisco gingerly clambers amid the splinters that once made up his house in Moore.

He is already limping - he's trodden on a nail. But he heaves himself forward and finds what he is looking for.

Miraculously, amid the devastation, a squat wooden chest with two drawers stuffed with papers has survived.

In the ruins of his home, he's hunting for something he can save, mementos of his life.

"Gloria, I've found it!" A roll of film - shots of his grown-up son as a baby. Then he finds photographs of his father.

We are surrounded by homes that have been half-flattened; battered cars with windows blown out; trees draped with rags and rubbish.

Driving into this area gives a different, almost more ominous impression of the calamity than watching it on TV.

We all know that the tornado carved a wide path two miles across. But somehow the impact is different, when the signs of impending doom come so slowly.

First, pieces of plastic and metal and cloth scattered by the side of the road. It could even be carelessly abandoned rubbish, if you didn't know better.

Then white clapperboard houses with mud spattered up their sides, even up on the roof.

Then the fences by the side of the road look a bit smashed up.

Then homes with all their windows broken, fences blown down and crushed.

Finally the swathe. It only takes a minute to drive by the place where it looks as if malevolent giant fingers have torn a muddy path through a green land.


Francisco is not given to such flights of fancy, he's matter of fact, detached, talking about what has happened to his home.

Then he halts: "Sorry, I am a sort of sentimental person."

For a while, he stops. Perhaps tears fill his eyes. I don't know, I am too far away, balanced precariously on the rubble.

Perhaps there is a catch in his voice. I'm not quite sure. But he does look as though he has just realised the enormity of his own tragedy.

However he continues, reflectively, homes can be rebuilt, life has to carry on. The full story of what might have been tumbles out.

His wife was at home, but decided to flee to the hospital. It is hard to see how she would have survived if she'd stayed put.

But even her chosen refuge was smashed to the ground. She had to be pulled to safety through a hole in the wreckage.

He holds another photo - their grandchild, who was at one of the flattened schools. She, too, was saved, but she's still in hospital, and is in shock - she can't talk about what happened.

"You can rebuild homes, not people," Francisco says, climbing unsteadily out of the wreck, holding aloft four shirts on hangers - something else he can salvage from the tornado.

More on this story