Utahns take spontaneous trip to aid Oklahoma tornado victims

Posted at 8:56 PM, May 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-26 22:56:44-04

MOORE, Oklahoma -- Volunteers from all across the country are heading to Oklahoma to help clean up some of the mess last week’s tornado left behind, and a crew from Provo began their journey back Sunday after spending three days there.

“For most of us, this is our first time ever in Oklahoma,” volunteer Aaron Browning said.

After seeing the aftermath of the storms in the news, Browning felt inspired to help and contacted his friend, Nick Pittson.

“I called Nick and said, ‘Hey, you want to go on a little adventure?’ That was about midnight on Monday night, and by the morning we had eight people lined up, two cars and we got on the road,” Browning said.

The two men were joined by six others for a 17-hour drive from Provo to Moore, Oklahoma. When they arrived Wednesday, they had little idea of how or who they would be helping.

“It was almost unreal,” said Becky Sampson, who was part of the trip. “To see that many homes gone, some of them just completely gone, I think was very humbling, I think we’ve used that word quite a bit, and sobering. We just kind of walk door-to-door and we ask people if we can help them find things.”

The group spent three days picking through rubble and visiting one of the storm’s most tragic sites, the Plaza Tower Elementary School, where seven children were killed.

“There’s an area we call the war zone because it just looks like a bomb got dropped on it,” Sampson said.

But amidst all the loss, they also found hope through the people they encountered.

“We had a lot of different stories and miracle stories where these people should not have survived,” trip participant Jackie Berg said.

The storms killed 24 people and injured hundreds more, yet the Oklahomans the volunteers met showed resilience in the face of tragedy.

“Anytime you get a chance to come and help with something like this, just do it,” Pittson said. “Things will come together, and it’s an awesome experience.”

If you'd like to help with the relief efforts in Oklahoma, you can make a donation to the Salvation Army by texting "storm" to 80888 or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY.