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Amid Nails and Mud, Oklahoma Neighborhood Pulls Together

Homes in the Heather Wood subdivision in Moore located a mile and a half east of I35 in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013 damaged by the tornado that hit Moore, Ok on Monday, May 20, 2013.

Homes in the Heather Wood subdivision in Moore located a mile and a half east of I35 in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013 damaged by the tornado that hit Moore, Ok on Monday, May 20, 2013.

Homes in the Heatherwood Addition, a subdivision in Moore located a mile and a half east of I35 in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013 damaged by the tornado that hit Moore, Ok on Monday, May 20, 2013. Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Homes in the Heather Wood subdivision in Moore located a mile and a half east of I35 in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013 damaged by the tornado that hit Moore, Ok on Monday, May 20, 2013.

The Hock Family home located in the Heather Wood subdivision in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013. The family managed to find the pet guinea pig, their mortgage papers, some dishes and an expensive bottle of wine in the ruble.

Sara hock, 11, poses for a portrait in her bedroom window at her family's home in the Heather Wood Addition, a subdivision in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013. Sarah was at school for the tornado, while her father Brian Hock, not pictured, found shelter at a neighbor's storm shelter. They have lived in the 2000 sq ft home for nine years and are not sure what they are going to do next.

Brian Hock poses for a portrait inside what is left of the home he shared with his wife and two daughters in the Heather Wood subdivision in Moore located a mile and a half east of I35 in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013. They have lived in the 2000 sq ft home for nine years and are not sure what they are going to do next.

The Hock Family home located in the Heather Wood Addition, a subdivision in Moore located a mile and a half east of I35 in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013. The family did manage to find the pet guinea pig, their mortgage papers, some dishes and an expensive bottle of wine in the ruble. They have lived in the 2000 sq ft home for nine years and are not sure what they are going to do next.

Siblings (from left) Alan, Sylvia and Ariel Trillo pose for a portrait at their home in the Heather Wood subdivision in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013. The Trillo home is one of the few homes in the division that is still standing, though everything inside is damaged. Sylvia was amazed at the outpouring of help the community received from strangers following the tornado on Monday, May 20, 2013.

Homes in the Heather Wood subdivision in Moore, Ok Wednesday, May22, 2013 damaged by the tornado that hit Moore, Ok on Monday, May 20, 2013.

Brian Hock was standing Wednesday evening in what used to be his home but is now 2,000 square feet of nothing. The cup he uses to scoop out kibble is still resting in the bag, emblazoned with the slogan, "Fear not: God's love shines bright."

Hock was at work Monday when the tornado smashed his house in the Heather Wood subdivision of Moore, Okla. He says his daughters survived only because neighbors invited them to share a custom shelter.

Several residents in the neighborhood along SE 4th Street have similar stories. Their section of Heather Wood was built about 11 years ago. It will all have to be rebuilt now.

Some walls remain standing, but many houses have been destroyed. At one house, a crushed pickup truck is all that's keeping a garage roof from collapsing completely to the ground.

At another, people passing by along the street can see into the remains of a living room, where a brown couch faces a flat-screen TV that's caked with dust but still hanging on the wall.

Many houses are now simply unrecognizable piles of debris.

Matt Claxton said he thought his neighbor Stan might have been kidding when he emerged from his shelter and announced, "My truck is upside down on top of my neighbor's house." But the pickup truck is still there.

National Guardsmen and police arrived in the area about 15 minutes after the storm hit, Claxton says. Not long after, someone heard the voices of an older couple trapped in their house up the block. Everyone dropped what they were doing to run and help, he says, estimating that 20 people began pulling away rubble.

Along with Hock and a few other residents, Claxton put on heavy work gloves Wednesday night to start carting away piles of debris. Neighbors cautioned one another to watch out for the nails that seemed to be sticking up from pieces of wood everywhere you looked.

Claxton's brick home is a total loss. He points to a corner of bare foundation where he used to keep a desk and pay his bills. A native of the area, he's not sure he'll rebuild on the same lot.

Still, Claxton says he feels lucky. He and his wife rode out the storm along with their two dogs.

"It's just stuff," he says. "The memories are in our heads and in our hearts."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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