Prayer service uplifts tornado victims’ spirits

MOORE, Okla. – Nearly one week after 26 Oklahomans were killed in violent tornadoes, the First Baptist Church of Moore hosted a prayer service Sunday night to show support for all the communities affected by the storms.

“We have one constant source of strength,” Governor Mary Fallin said. “That strength and that refuge is found in our God. That is our strength that we appeal to and the strength and the refuge that we seek tonight.”

First Baptist Pastor Kevin Clarkson recognized those teachers who said they weren’t supposed to pray but did anyway as the May 20 tornado roared toward their schools.

“I’ve heard stories of many of our teachers that did that and were crying out to God and I’m thankful they know that it’s OK to pray,” Clarkson said.

Gov. Fallin toured Plaza Towers Elementary Sunday afternoon with President Obama.

That’s where seven students died last Monday.

She told the prayer service congregation she found a student’s note in the debris.

“It says, ‘You are the best teacher in the world. I wish you could be my teacher forever.'”

To a standing ovation, Briarwood Elementary first grade teacher Waynel Mayes and surviving students walked in, carrying flowers.

Mayes recalled the moment she realized Briarwood was in the tornado’s path.

“I told the students to get under the desks and later, learned that my colleagues were doing just the same,” Mayes said. “Getting under desks and tables and shielding (the students) with their own bodies.”

Different classes began singing different songs to calm the children.

“Soon, one of my children asked if we could sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ This did not surprise me, as my children frequently came in on Monday mornings telling me their memory verses from Sunday school and singing songs they had learned in church,” Mayes said.  “I knew they would be comforted, as I would.”

Mayes then recalled hearing the roar of the twister getting closer and closer.

“I just didn’t want (the students) to hear it, so I told them to keep singing louder,” Mayes said, “and when they could no longer hear my voice, then they could scream.  When we couldn’t bear it no longer, they started screaming and my teacher’s assistant started praying and I just kept singing louder and louder, and debris started falling everywhere around us and the dirt started coming in, and then it turned black, and I don’t remember for a while.  I just kept singing, and then it stopped.

“Then I told them a real life hero was coming, and one of my little boys said ‘you mean K.D.?’ (Kevin Durant of the OKC Thunder), and I said, well maybe not K.D.  Maybe a fireman or a policeman.”