May 24, 2013 9:01 PM by Andy Koen
MOORE, OKLAHOMA - Thousands of volunteers spent the day clearing debris and trying to salvage any personal belongings from the wreckage of the Monday's deadly tornado.
An estimated 2,000 people signed up at a staging area organized by the recently formed group servemoore.com. They joined a group of 200 airmen from Tinker Air Force Base who spent time cleaning up in the hardest hit neighborhoods.
Lt. Col. Preston Kise of the 522nd Air Control Wing explained that many of the volunteers had time off because of the upcoming Memorial Day and wanted to give back to the community.
"We get a lot of support from the American public and so if we can do something help them, give back to them, that's great," said Lt. Col. Preston Kise.
Helping keep the volunteers fed and hydrated, as well as providing emergency needs for families displaced by the tornado, are missionary evangelists Tim and Peggy Grisham. They are originally from Pueblo and now live in rural Indiana.
"We take people cold water, take ‘em something to eat and most importantly we're going to give them some hope," Tim said.
They packed up a tractor trailer in South Bend, Indiana on Wednesday and headed south ready for a long stay.
"We'll be here long enough that as we hear of need outside, whether it be Shawnee or we've heard about Little Axe and several other communities, we'll be able to take stuff out to those people as well," Grisham said.
A category EF-5 tornado that hit the area Monday afternoon claimed the lives of 24 people, including 7 third graders who were trapped in a collapsed elementary school. Another 377 were injured by and emergency managers estimate 1,150 homes were destroyed. Countless others were damaged.
The massive twister struck just a day after a pair of tornadoes swept through the towns of Pink and Shawnee in rural parts of Cleveland County southeast of Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma Department of Insurance reports more than 14,000 claims have been opened because of tornado damage to homes, vehicles and businesses across the state.
Even days later, the evidence of that destructive power has left people here stunned.
"It's been hell," said Joe Lawson who lives just a few blocks from the disaster area. He visited the damage up-close for the first time today.
"I know where I'm at but I don't know where I'm at. I've lost my bearing around here," he said looking at the disaster area from Little Creek Park.
Although it's early in the clean up process, Lawson says he sees the difference.
"Compared to where it was Tuesday, it's gotten 500 percent better and everyday it will get better we just need, we just need to get a little bit of clear weather."
All three of the Moore public high schools hold graduation ceremonies on Saturday. President Obama will visit the area on Sunday and later that evening, a community wide memorial service will be held for the victims.