MOORE, Okla. – Last year an EF-5 tornado hit three schools in Moore.
East Highland Junior High escaped the worst; Briarwood and Plaza Towers were destroyed.
In one short year, the schools are rebuilding in time for the start of the next school year.
A memorial is being constructed at Plaza Towers that will honor the seven children who passed away.
Plaza Towers Elementary went from wreckage to a tall standing building.
“For a lot of people that come out here, it reminds them of the trauma. For me, it reminds me of hope,” Jimi Fleming said, Moore Public Schools Public Information Officer.
After the tornado, only one wall was left standing, the one with the school’s mascot, the panther.
“They managed to save the wall, store it over the whole school year and bring it back and get it re-installed without damaging it,” Fleming said.
Classrooms on the north side will also act as storm shelters.
“Very thick walls, concrete, steal reinforced, foundations thicker, the roof is concrete, steal reinforced, it’s just like this vault,” Fleming said.
There’s something else that will catch the eye when people walk into the school.
“We’re wrapping these brick columns with granite slabs that will have the silhouettes of the children,” Chad Vice said, President of Plaza Towers Memorial Committee.
Vice said it was a joint effort with the parents of the victims.
Vice’s family runs Havenbrook, the funeral home where many of the tornado victims were laid to rest.
“This memorial will just add to the life of these kids and how they chose to face every day, the laughter, the sunshine in their lives, joy,” Vice said.
The students’ parents designed seven benches where anyone can sit to reflect and never forget the lives lost.
“It will also pave the way for future generations of kids to be in keeping with what we do in elementary schools, which is to prepare our kids for the future,” Vice said.
The Plaza Towers Memorial is privately funded.
Officials said they have raised a quarter of the money needed.
The total cost is around $180,000.