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‘We’ll get back up,’ Midwest City reflects on May 3, 1999

MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – It’s been 15 years since a monster tornado crossed I-40, but May 3, 1999 is a day some in Midwest City will never forget.

City Manager Guy Henson said, “I can remember the next day driving the area in a bus with a bunch of other city employees and just pretty much in disbelief.”

Henson was the community development director back then and immediately began brainstorming how to help this area grow bigger and better than ever.

‘We kind of took it as an opportunity to make lemonade out of a lemon,” says Henson. “You take some personal pride in it but it’s also the pride that the community came together and supported the work that needed to be done.”

Hotels, restaurants, a brand new convention center and new homes were built from nothing.

Some people left the area but not Shirley Fish.

Fish said, “There was no question about it. We were going to move back.”

Fish remembers driving through her splintered neighborhood, wondering how this city was going to bounce back.

“I was in shock when I come out because everything was just destroyed,” says Fish. “It was a very scary experience. It was very scary.”

It’s obvious to her now that you can build a new house and a new Midwest City, but nothing can dampen the spirit of Oklahoma.

Fish said, “Oklahoma people does stick together. They do.”

Henson said, “I think that’s just the Oklahoma spirit. Knock us down and we’ll get back up.”