February 14, 2009

04CN:Oklahoma Tornado Flattens Ardmore Adventist Academy

Tornado Flattens Ardmore
Adventist Academy
No injuries reported, but school, two members’ homes destroyed
capClasses are expected to resume the week of February 16 for the 17 students of Ardmore Adventist Academy, whose destroyed school building is in one of two Oklahoma towns devastated by tornadoes the night of February 10.


MEMBER'S HOME DESTROYED -- Ardmore (Oklahoma) Seventh-day Adventist Church members Rodney and Jo Phillips had no time to flee their home when a tornado struck February 10; the couple "hit the floor" and were spared, although their home was destroyed. [Photos: C. Shockey Photography]

“We're going to try and start school again on Monday, meeting in our church about five miles away from the school,” said Charrie Shockey, a member of the Ardmore Seventh-day Adventist Church and mother of a 13-year-old student at the Academy. “The textbooks [that were] recovered are being sent on to Oklahoma City for cleaning. We're hoping they'll eventually be able to get to the children's desks and be able to recover their school supplies and personal items.”

In an e-mail, Shockey noted that a team from Adventist Risk Management “was in today and were able to get in and rescue all the bells, tables, and cases and everything looks like it's in working order. The only things that will have to be replaced are the tablecloths since they are covered in fiberglass. They also got into the front office and got our school files and records, as many textbooks as they could get to without having heavy equipment to actually lift debris off yet, [such as] desks, etc.”
Shockey said that while the school building was destroyed, the actual damage to contents was limited: “[It] looks like we lost all our computers and chapel with piano, pews, etc. But all in all, the bulk of the damage was mostly to our gym, since the tornado came from the west.”


SCHOOL'S OUT--The name on the front is barely all that remains of Ardmore Adventist Academy in Ardmore, Oklahoma, a city 90 miles south of Oklahoma City. The building sustained major damage in a February 10 tornado, which struck at night. No one was injured in Ardmore; eight resident of a nearby town, Lone Grove, were killed, media reports indicate.

Residents in the nearby town of Lone Grove were nowhere near as fortunate: eight people were killed, and 14 more were seriously injured, as a tornado tore through the area. Most of those killed were in a mobile home park, media reports indicate.

Looking at the images, the only possible conclusion one can draw from the destruction of the Ardmore Adventist Academy, in an Oklahoma town 90 miles south of Oklahoma City, is that a multitude of miracles took place.
For one, the tornado, which locals say is the worst to ever hit the city of 30,000, struck at night. The school and an adjacent pecan farm were wiped out, but no one was hurt.
For another, even though two Ardmore Seventh-day Adventist Church member families lost their homes, there were no injuries or death. This was especially significant since one couple, Rodney and Jo Phillips, had no time to seek shelter, but literally “hit the deck” as their home exploded around them.
The most poignant miracle might be the most dramatic. Roofs were crumpled and walls caved in at the Academy, which has been in its location for more than 20 years, but the school’s hand bells, treasured by generations of students, survived intact.


BOOKS LEFT BEHIND:  Library books still stand on the shelves at Ardmore Adventist Academy after the February 10 tornado.

“The entire school is either down or blown away,” said Jack Francisco, communication and Education director for the Oklahoma Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in a telephone interview from the school site. “The pecan grove is gone; we had a bunch of beautiful pecan trees and they’re gone. [If] anybody wants some kindling pecan wood, we’ll make them a good deal.”

Francisco said “the school is a total loss,” but the conference has already been in touch with Adventist Risk Management, the church-owned insurance arm based in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“They are wonderful people to work with; I’ve had to work with them before,” Francisco said of Risk Management.
Charrie Shockey, a Seventh-day Adventist who is also the obituary clerk for The Ardmoreite daily newspaper, wrote on her Weblog about the devastation that greeted the families of Academy students the morning after. Shockey’s daughter, Tianna, attends the school, which is located in the Majestic Hills section of Ardmore.
She wrote, “When I drove up the hill and saw the name of our school still standing, tears welled up in my eyes and I told Tianna, ‘The devil might have destroyed our school, but he couldn't destroy the Adventist in our name!’”
Shockey’s photo of the school library, which lost its roof but had books in order on the shelves, was the front-page picture for The Ardmoreite. Her photographs also appear on the Adventist Review Website and will be featured in an upcoming story in the March 12 issue of the magazine.