The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 22, 2013

Volunteers clean Moore Cemetery in advance of burials

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

MOORE, Okla. — Rosella Poff’s gravestone was laid in Moore Cemetery just nine months ago.

Then, in the span of a few seconds Monday, a monster tornado pulled her memorial from the red earth and cast it, in pieces, away from her final resting place.

Rosella’s widower, Dean, tried to visit the cemetery earlier this week to check on her grave, but storm damage and emergency workers blocked the roads along 4th Street.

He finally reached her grave Wednesday morning. What he found amazed him.

Responding to a call for volunteers, about a thousand people had walked to the small cemetery early Wednesday. They had shovels and buckets and plastic bags to clean up the grounds where those who died in the tornado could be buried.

He walked up to her gravesite and found the stone was missing. Nearby volunteers helped him look for it.

“We looked around and found all the parts. They carried it back, sat it up on there,” he said.

The volunteers then carried buckets of water and washed the mud and debris off it.

Giving their time to clean a holy place for the coming dead reminded Poff of the good in humanity.

“It just means to me there are a lot more good people than there is bad ones. That’s what it means to me,” he said.

As Poff was leaving the cemetery, he came across a friend, Tammy Walker. The two embraced, and Walker told stories about when she served the elderly couple as a waitress.

“I’ve lived here for 26 years. I’ve got dozens of friends who were affected by this. Their parents, their loved ones, their homes,” she said through tears. “This kind of support is the best thing in the world.”

Walker came to the cemetery in the hours before authorities opened up several neighborhoods so residents could return. Her daughter lives behind the Moore Warren Theater, and the home was damaged as the tornado skirted by. Inside the home were eight children, some of whom had just came home from Plaza Towers Elementary School, where several children died. They escaped the tornado safely.

Walker already had planned to go into her daughter’s neighborhood to help clean up, but decided to start the day helping clear the cemetery.

“It’s a united feeling. It hits us all. My home, your home,” she said. “This is our world; our everyday community. We’re a good, strong community and it’s hard to see so many people hurt.”

Walker said she owned a business along 4th and knew the area very well.

“I looked at this area every day for years,” she said. “Now it’s just forever changed.”

As the two old friends chatted, Poff said he wished there was some way to repay the volunteers’ kindness. Without hesitation, Walker answered.

“You know how you’re paying them for it? Just appreciate it. That’s all you can do, hon,” she said. “You know where they’re getting paid is in the heart for doing it, OK? That’s why we’re all here. For each other.”