Eight people representing the First Assembly of God Church in Paris went to Moore, Okla. in late June to volunteer for disaster relief and clean up efforts. Moore, Okla. was struck by an EF5 tornado on May 20.
Shirley Barnes of Ozark was among the eight and the level of destruction she saw shocked her.
"I’ve never seen so much disaster. It was horrible," she said.
The tornado, with peak winds estimated at 210 miles per hour, killed 23 people and injured 377 others. Most areas in the path of the storm suffered catastrophic damage. Two elementary schools and the Moore Medical Center were heavily damaged. Seven children died at Plaza Towers Elementary School. Insurance claims for damages are expected to exceed $1 billion. Some meteorologists estimate the energy released by the storm was between eight and 600 times greater than the energy released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima near the end of World War II.
It was the deadliest tornado to hit the U.S. since the Joplin, Mo. tornado that killed 158 people in 2011.
The team from First Assembly left Paris on June 25 and stayed in Moore until June 29.
Barnes said she and her husband Gary were planning to go and talked with the Rev. Kenny Manness, pastor of First Assembly.
"He said others would want to go, too, so we got a team formed," she said.
The Ozark Chamber of Commerce donated bottled water for the team and the members of First Assembly donated $4,000 for victims.
Once in the Moore area, the team worked out of The Rock Church in Oklahoma City.
"They have a gym set up to house people," Shirley Barnes said. "We brought our own food and they had a full kitchen set up."
In Moore, the team members worked out of New Seasons Assembly of God Church, which is two blocks from the worst hit area, Barnes said.
"They have rooms full of clothing," she said. "We helped sort, fold and hang clothes. Those are distributed to the victims and then the church feeds them."
The group from Paris also helped build a fence, Barnes said.
Barnes added that supplies and people from all across the country are arriving in the Moore area daily.
"There are semi loads coming in full of clothes and food, an outpouring of love from all across America," she said.
"They’ve had to turn some people away because there’s no place for them to stay," she said.
Even with all those volunteers and all the supplies, food and clothes, it will take some time before Moore recovers because the level of destruction was so great.
"There are houses that are just totally destroyed, nothing left but the concrete pad," Barnes said. "There’s twisted metal everywhere. While we were there, they were demolishing the hospital because it wasn’t safe."
One day during their stay, a pastor of New Seasons church took the Paris group to Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children were killed.
"They’ve set up seven crosses, each once with the name of a child that lost their life in the tornado," Barnes said. "No words can describe how you feel when you look around and see destruction all around you."