MOORE, Okla. – Nearly five years after a deadly tornado tore through Moore, the community is mourning the loss of one of the survivors of the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Xavier Delgado, 14, took his own life Sunday.
His loved ones gathered at the Buck Thomas Park in Moore to pay tribute to Xavier’s memory Thursday evening.
“We’re all devastated,” said his cousin, Leticia Doughty. “There’s no other word. We’re destroyed.”
One of his closest friends, Landon Ellis-Graham, said he was beloved by all.
“There’s not a single person that didn’t like Xavier at our school, I guarantee,” Ellis-Graham said. “A friend to everybody, he didn’t care about popularity or anything. He was just like, he was so nice to everyone.”
And everyone shocked to learn what happened.
“He always seemed like such a funny and nice person,” Ellis-Graham said. “Just kind of didn’t really expect that. Came out of nowhere.”
“This wasn’t Xavier,” Doughty said.
On May 20, 2013, a deadly EF5 tornado tore through 17 miles of Moore, killing 24 people. Xavier was one of the survivors of the Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was reduced to rubble with teachers, students, and staff still inside. Seven of Xavier’s friends didn’t make it out alive.
“They can experience PTSD for a very long time, if not a lifetime,” said Psychiatrist Dr. Peter Stanbro with Stanbro Healthcare Group. Most of his patients are children or adolescents, and he said trauma and fear caused by tornados is common among them. The effects of a traumatic event like living through a deadly tornado can haunt a child, like an adult, indefinitely.
“Fear that there’s not a safe place to be, that they wouldn’t be able to get away from danger,’ Dr. Stanbro said. “If you can imagine something on the T.V. that says it’s coming, and it’s headed straight for “X” community, and they feel like there is not a safe place that I can go, I can’t imagine what that would feel like.”
He said trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy, being able to process how you think and feel about something, is the gold standard for helping anyone who struggles after surviving something like a tornado.
Now Xavier’s community is banding tightly together again, like they did for one another five years ago. His memory will live on through them.
“He was awesome,” Doughty said. “He was a light.”
A fundraiser for Xavier’s funeral costs was started by the Moore Tornado Family online. Part of the description reads, “Over the years since 2013 we have all continued to put one foot in front of the other, rebuilding our lives, each at our own pace and each healing and grieving in our own ways. We shared a storm but the pain we each endured and the healing process is unique to our individual stories. The seasons continue to change, as do we, and, no doubt, new storms arise.”
There are resources available for victims of trauma, including the Project Moore Hope, a program through the Moore Youth and Family Services for those affected by tornados. It’s located at 624 NW 5th Street, Moore, OK, and the office can be reached at (405) 799-3379
Dr. Peter Stanbro also offers trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy at the Stanbro Healthcare Group, at 2000 East. 15th Street, Ste. 400A, Edmond, OK. His office can be reached at (405) 341-1697.