Starting over from scratch, replacing the fruits of a lifetime of working, saving and building, is a daunting hurdle for any couple. It is a path immeasurably more difficult to traverse when the couple are in their 80s.
Haskell Moore, 85, and Cordelia Moore, 81, are beginning the path to recovery after their home of more than three decades was damaged beyond repair in the tornado that hit Woodward Sunday.
Located in the southwest section of Woodward on 48th Street, the Moores’ home was one of the first structures to bear the brunt of the tornado.
After a tense day of watching the weather, and waiting, Haskell had gone to bed shortly before midnight. Cordelia still was awake, watching wea-ther reports as the storm approached Woodward.
“It had been cloudy all day, and stormy, and I was watching the storms on TV,” Cordelia said. “A little after midnight they were emphasizing and emphasizing that people on the west side of Woodward needed to take cover. I woke Haskell up and told him to put clothes on and we’d go to the basement.”
The couple rushed to take cover, but the tornado struck their home while they still were on their way to the basement. Haskell was walking through a hallway between a sun room and the basement door when the tornado hit.
The force of the wind blew through the sun room door, forcing the door inward, and blew Haskell sideways into a wall.
“Haskell was standing there in front of that door, and it’s a wonder it didn’t kill him,” Cordelia said. “It came through just like that, just that fast.”
Haskell remembers being lifted off his feet and thrown against the wall, only a few feet from the safety of their basement.
“It was bad,” he said, “I could have been killed just as easy.”
Cordelia said she “began thinking about self-preservation” when she saw her husband blown sideways by the force of the wind.
“I went into the den and I thought I would get one of the big pillows off the couch to cover my head, because I thought the window behind me would blow out,” Cordelia said. “But the sound was gone and it was over before I could even get the pillow over my head. It was there, and then it was gone, just that fast.”
The couple emerged, dazed from the sudden violence of the storm, to find their home severely damaged.
Doors and windows were blown in, personal belongings were damaged and scattered throughout the home, the roof was removed from the west end of the house, and numerous trees were downed in what had been an immaculately landscaped yard.
Haskell, who suffered cuts and bruises on his arms, head, face and torso, was taken by a neighbor to the hospital, where he would remain for three days of treatment and recovery.
When he returned to the home he had built with Cordelia, where they raised their two children, he didn’t recognize the scene before him.
“We really had a beautiful place there,” he said. “It didn’t even look like the same place.”
The couple had settled on their land southwest of Woodward in a trailer home in 1975.
“We started out with nothing,” Haskell said. “I worked in the oilfield, and it was just us and two babies ... we could have built a house anywhere in the world we wanted to, and we chose Woodward.”
The couple built their home in 1978, using two-by-six lumber for wall studs. Haskell still takes pride in the construction, and the strength of the home that shielded him and his wife from the worst of the tornado.
“You can look at that house today and see how a well-built house will take a tornado,” he said.
But, the home did take significant damage. Initial contractors’ estimates varied between $40,000 to $80,000 to repair the house.
And, the couple have no homeowners’ insurance.
Haskell recently had dropped insurance coverage on the home because the couple could no longer afford the cost of the policy.
“They had raised the insurance to the point we couldn’t pay the insurance any more,” Haskell said. He said insurance costs had more than tripled since they built the home, and they “just couldn’t keep up with it any more.”
The prospect of losing their home hit the couple hard.
“It’s terribly hard, especially at our age,” Cordelia said. “When you’re younger you can take things like this more in stride, but we’re not young any more.”
The emotional pain of losing their home, and all the equity they built into it, was compounded when the couple was victimized this week by looters.
Haskell said some time between Wednesday and Thursday someone took a television and generator from the damaged home, and rifled through drawers, cabinets and personal belongings.
Cordelia said the vast majority of community members have been “incredibly kind and helpful” in the wake of the tornado. As for the few who have turned to looting, Cordelia could only describe them as “dirty, dirty people.”
“That is the most low-down thing I’ve ever heard of,” she said. “I can’t understand anybody that would do that ... it just makes me angry.”
Despite the pain and anger, the looters didn’t take the Moores’ faith in the community.
“Our friends and neighbors have been so kind,” Cordelia said. “People have come out and offered us food, they’ve brought things over, even offered us money. They’ve been very helpful.”
“I had no idea how well-respected we were until this happened,” Haskell added. “You talk about being humbled ... it’s been amazing.”
Unable to live in or repair their home, Haskell and Cordelia have taken refuge in a local motel since the tornado. They soon will leave for good the community they’ve called home for 37 years.
“When you get to be this old, you need to be around family,” Cordelia said. “Wood-ward’s gotten to be my home, and I’ll hate to leave. But, you have to do what you have to do.”
The pain of leaving their home is eased by the promise of living closer to their four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
“We have two grandkids who are doctors, and two who are dental hygienists, and not many people can say that,” Haskell said with a broad smile.
One of their granddaughters has secured the couple a two bedroom apartment in Edmond, where they plan to make a temporary home.
They want to build a new home in Edmond. But, starting a new mortgage in your mid-80s can be difficult.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to get any financing, but that’s what we’re working on now,” Cordelia said.
Haskell, a disabled Army veteran of World War II, has applied for a home loan through the Veterans Administration.
In spite of everything that’s happened in the last week, both Haskell and Cordelia said they’re optimistic about their future. They take some solace in the fact they’ve made it through tougher times.
“We’ve had worse than this,” Haskell said.
The toughest time in their nearly 63 years of marriage was when their son Dwight was killed in an oilfield explosion at the age of 24.
“That was the hardest thing we’ve ever been through, and the hardest thing we ever will be through,” Cordelia said.
The Moores, like many in Woodward, are recovering and moving on with their lives, taking strength from their faith and from each other.
“We’ve always gotten through, with God’s help,” Cordelia said. “We just don’t give up. We weren’t raised to be sissies.”