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Tornado Seen Through the Faces and Places Left Behind

By Jules Ebe on May 24th 2013

I remember walking along the river when I first started dating my husband. Oklahoma had this way of making each step seem a little slower, a little more at peace. Even the large cities have a small town feel to them.

But that peace was shattered a few days ago.

It’s been four days since the tornado ravaged Oklahoma. Now that the rubble has settled, residents are beginning to pick up the pieces. In the American Heartland, families are struggling to answer one of the most difficult questions— “What do we do now?”

Photographer Katie Hayes Luke has gathered a few portraits of people in the neighborhood of Heatherwood, just east of Moore, Ok. during her recent assignment for NPR. Sobering and raw, the fragility of life and the power of nature dominates as the unspoken figure in each image.

“I’d never seen destruction like that before,so walking into a wasteland at first was kind of overwhelming. … They all seemed kind of dazed. … What was even more surprising, was how upbeat people are.” ~ Katie Hayes Luke

For some reason, I am not surprised at all.

Faces And Places The Tornado Left Behind


Damon and Kristi Mabry and their dog, Daisy. They were both at work when the tornado struck and came home to a house destroyed and a neighborhood in chaos. Roughly 100 dogs were loose in the street and neighbors were outside their homes crying. The Mabrys have lived in Heatherwood for three years, and Damon has lived in Oklahoma his whole life.


Sara Hock, 11, poses for a portrait in her bedroom window. Sarah was at school during the tornado, while her father, Brian Hock, took shelter.


Siblings (from left) Alan, Sylvia and Ariel Trillo. The Trillo home is one of the few in the subdivision that is still standing, although everything inside is damaged. Sylvia was amazed at the outpouring of help the community received from strangers after the tornado.


Stephanie and Scott McKinney. Stephanie credits Gary England, the chief meteorologist at KWTV-DT in Oklahoma City, for saving her husband’s life: Scott fled the house after hearing England’s warnings on TV. Stephanie fears that insurance won’t pay out enough money. “I am scared,” she says, “and they can’t get back to you fast enough to tell you it’s OK.”

So what now? We all continue on, pick up the pieces, and strive forward with the force of the human spirit that cannot be dulled by shock or loss. We rebuild, brick by brick, our communities and our homes.

“It’s just stuff. The memories are in our heads and in our hearts.” ~ Matt Claxton, resident

To see more images from this series, click here.

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules

[via NPR/Katie Hayes Luke]


is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    So sad

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