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Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1716

This week on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we look at the strength and resilience of the faculty, students and community that helped rebuild Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1716

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1716

For more information visit these links:

Top 10 Deadliest Oklahoma Tornadoes

Where Was God?

Steven Earp

Canadian Valley Technology Center

CareerTech

Show Details

Show 1716: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: April 16, 2017

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Here is what is coming up on your “Horizon.” Few will forget the month of May 2013 when we witnessed two separate killer tornados rip through central Oklahoma taking lives and destroying dreams. But today’s show is not just about the destruction. Our focus this week on “Horizon” is on resiliency, rebirth and a show I don’t think you want to miss. Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by CareerTech – a job for every Oklahoman and a workforce for every company -- with additional support from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Oklahomans are no strangers to spring storms, and in May of 2013, we were reminded just how devastating they can be. On May 20, a killer tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, taking 25 lives, some of those children huddled in the hallways of their school. Then not two weeks later, another tornado hits in El Reno, the largest ever recorded. But what began in tragedy has ended in resiliency. And we begin today with the inspiring story of the Oklahoma teacher who risked everything to save her students.

Alise Newby: And as the freight train noise starts, things start hitting the top of the shelter, and I keep thinking, OK, this is it, this is it. And it just gets louder and it gets louder. And then our ears start to pop. I’m thinking my son; my son is in that school. So I just prayed.

Rob: It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.

Alise: I just kept saying out loud, “God, please protect the children. God, please save my son. Please protect my son. Please save the children.” And that’s all we could say and I mean, I was just screaming it over and over just trying to block out the noise.

Rob: And a tragic reality for Alise Newby.

Newsman: Guys, as you’re tracking this we’ve got to tell you a school down in Moore, we know a school in Moore has been hit, an elementary school.

Newswoman: We’re also getting word that some kids may be trapped.

Karen Marinelli: A wall fell down, and it was immediately just so crushing of a feeling. I mean, I immediately thought we’re gone, we’re gonna die. It was immediate.

Rob: First grade teacher Karen Marinelli.

Karen: I just kept praying, you know, just please keep us safe. Please, like, help me to breathe. And I kept trying to calm myself down because, you know, you can’t even move. So I just continuously prayed that we would make it through, that the weight of the wall wouldn’t come down anymore.

Rob: And under her, unharmed, Alise’s son, Liam.

Alise: All the teachers in the halls that day had thrown themselves over what students they had remaining. And Ms. Marinelli happened to have the three smallest boys left in her class. And she was able to wrap herself completely around them.

Chase Newby: After they pulled her out and while they had her at the hospital, all she wanted to know was, you know, are my boys OK. And she hadn’t heard anything. And of course, we didn’t know that she had been injured. You know, we knew it was a miracle that he was OK, but we didn’t know how that was possible.

Alise: We immediately went up to OU Medical Center where she was at the hospital.

Karen: And as soon as they opened the door, I knew that they knew, that they knew that he was with me, that he was under me because I don’t even think Alise said a word. I mean, she just burst into tears and ran over to me and hugged me and basically just told me thank you for saving her baby.

Rob McClendon: Now, despite severe injuries, we are happy to tell you Karen Marinelli was able to have her first child exactly one year after having saved the children of others. Now, if you would like to see more inspiring stories from the Moore tornado, the entire film “Where Was God?” is streaming on YouTube, and we do have a link to it under this story at okhorizon.com. When we return, Canadian Valley Strong.

Female Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon” with Rob McClendon – weekly insight into your changing world.

Rob McClendon: Well, less than two weeks after the deadly Moore tornado a second storm that the National Weather Service referred to as the most dangerous storm in tornado-observing history, well, it hit El Reno. It too took lives and had another school directly in its bullseye.

As far as Canadian County, it was the worst-case scenario.

I couldn’t believe what I saw out there. I had to stop and think, is this really happening?

Greg Winters: Moving forward after that day, we didn’t have the luxury of making bad decisions.

George Fina: I think that this school is a heart. It’s the heart of this community.

Jacob Manuel: You know before I came to Canadian Valley, I had just graduated high school, didn’t really know, you know, what I wanted to do.

Bill Bradley: I’ve been involved in career and technology education all of my adult life. I know who the students are, and I know that they need the services and educational programs that we provide.

Manuel: I saw the automotive services program offered by Canadian Valley.

Fina: They could come out here, they can be trained, and next week they’ve got a job.

Manuel: Once I got in it and found out that it’s what I like to do, and they helped me find my career.

Fina: I’ve never missed handing out diplomas. That’s why I do what I do. And at least 85 percent of those people walking across that stage have already got a job. Some of them don’t even show up for graduation because they’re working.

Marc Belew: CareerTech provides so many workers statewide for lots of various occupations.

Fina: I would say that we affect a lot of lives and also add to the community.

Bradley: Whenever I was leaving the school building that evening at 5:30, and I was thinking about the new chapter that might be happening for Canadian Valley Technology Center on Monday, June the third, and little did I know that there was going to be a new chapter. It’s just not exactly the same chapter that I was thinking about that evening.

Winters: May 31 was a Friday. So I told my secretary I was going to run down to El Reno to have lunch. There was a lot of SUV-type vehicles, hail damaged vehicles, radio antennas, you know ,there was about a dozen of them out in the parking lot. And I struck up a conversation with these guys. They were storm chasers.

David Payne: So I was in the field that day. I was chasing. You know, I’ve chased storms for a long, long time. So I’ve seen about everything. Or so I thought.

Larry Fisher: I was teaching a night class. And we were the only people out there, my students, myself and the night coordinator, Neal Blitzer. I had an uneasy feeling driving out there. You could kind of feel the conditions in the air, you know. There was something different and something big.

Payne: I mean, it came down to the atmosphere was just, you know, it was a powder keg.

Bradley: So I was driving home, obviously could see the clouds. When I got back home, I immediately turned on the television. And it was like something I really hadn’t ever seen before.

Payne: A thunderstorm is a breathing, eating. It’s alive. The whole sky was turning. And it’s turning over about a 4-mile area. At that point, I kept thinking if it goes to the ground nobody’s going to be safe.

Storm-chaser: What I can tell you is the whole sky is sitting on the ground, and it is just churning.

Winters: There were three gentlemen from The Weather Channel that were there that the conditions were perfect for a big tornado today. And I asked them, “Where?” And they said, “Well, here.”

Storm-chaser: The whole cloud base is almost on the ground. That whole thing is just circling like a top, Gary. It’s right here in the middle, it’s touching down again. There it is, it’s on the ground now. There it is, Gary, right in the middle of my shot.

Bradley: At first I thought that the storms were going to do and miss the school, they were going to go south of the school. But then, I looked back again and saw that the storms were headed directly toward the school.

Payne: The fact that, that was moving southeast at 20, 25, made a left turn, accelerated to nearly 60 miles per hour. You’ve gone from just over a half-mile wide, main tornado with small vortices underneath it. Now, we’ve gone to over 2-1/2 miles wide.

Storm-chaser: Gary, it’s moving southeast. It’s moving southeast, Gary.

Fisher: They said it was coming down I-40, so I went out and opened the door and looked out across the parking lot. And lo and behold, I could see the tornado coming right at us.

Storm-chaser: Boy, there it is. It’s multiple vortices again. There it is, it’s on the ground again, multiple vortices. I can see three funnels right now.

Payne: So it looked like a merry-go-round. You have the center part, and then around it you had seven other vortices. Those were moving at 150 mile per hour ground speed.

Winters: You don’t mess around. You know, these are serious. These are serious, will hurt you or kill you, potential storms.

Storm-chaser: Gary, it’s becoming a very, very big tornado, by the El Reno airport.

Fisher: We all got down below. You could look up and see the outside. And I could tell it was a storm like I’d never seen before or heard of. I could see stuff as big as cars flying through the air outside. And it just literally sounded like everything was just total destruction.

Storm-chaser: I chased storms for 25 years. No one had ever seen anything like it.

Rob McClendon: And the Canadian Valley Tech Center took a direct hit. When we return, picking up the pieces.

Female Announcer: “Horizon” is at your fingertips – join us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to catch the segments you may have missed and our latest new content as it happens.

Rob McClendon: Because the way the El Reno tornado developed, it trapped storm chasers inside, killing four and injuring others, and left the Canadian Valley Technology Center in ruins.

Larry Fisher: It started raining like crazy. I mean it was pouring down and there was water. When we come out of there, there was water running, probably ankle deep inside the school.

Bill Bradley: I was sending text messages to Neal, and I finally get a text message back, and that text said that everybody is OK, but the school has suffered damage.

Greg Winters: It was huge floods, 8, 10 inches of rain. You couldn’t hardly get to this place from here I live. So I didn’t get here until about two hours after the storm.

Fisher: I walked back toward the classroom where I was teaching. I still didn’t know what the devastation that there was until I opened. I was going to open the door, and the walls was laying down, I was standing on the door.

Gayla Lutts: Really couldn’t see a whole lot. It was dark and it was raining and power lines were down everywhere. And you know, you’re walking in water halfway up your leg.

Bradley: No electricity at the school. I could see the school was damaged pretty bad. It was the next morning before I saw the full extent of it.

George Fina: A lifetime on the fire department, and I’ve seen some pretty bad stuff. But I don’t think that any of us realized until we walked on this campus how bad this place was.

Charlotte Wakefield: You can’t hardly describe it. It’s a part of your life, and a part of what you do. And when you see something like that, it’s kind of overwhelming.

Cary DeHart: Trees just completely gone or nothing left on there. Grass was sucked out of the ground. The big propeller blade had been lifted off the ground, and stuck into the daycare center. That was quite a site. The maintenance building was flattened. The other buildings, from a distance may not look too damaged, but when you walk through them you’d see that walls are about to fall over. This tornado took out everything. And the campus here just happened to be in its path.

Fina: You feel like something was stolen from you, and you want to get back. And I think that’s where we were at. I think that’s where we were at.

Lutts: It was just a building, you know. We only lost a building. No one was injured. It just felt like it was easier for me to relate to the human side yet have an awareness that it really is just a building, and we’re going to be OK.

Winters: Tech centers in Oklahoma are schools of choice. People choose to come and take part in our programs. This district had been running for 43 years. It had been here a long time.

Marc Belew: All of our instructors come from industry. All of our instructors have made their living doing what they teach.

Winters: If we’d had to mothball programs, shut programs down, lay off great teachers, it would have been devastating.

Belew: I spent 18 years in the machining industry before I started teaching. So we take the skill that we learned, and we try to pass that on to the students to provide them with a skill that they can make a living with and make money and have a future.

Winters: The two things that I knew that our folks were really concerned about was the fact about their job.

Belew: The first few days after the tornado were obviously uncertain. You know, we all wondered what was going to happen, you know, that the school was destroyed, we didn’t have a place to teach.

Winters: And from the student perspective, you know, do I have a school to go to?

Jacob Manuel: I was really worried; I’m not going to lie. I didn’t know what was going to become of my program.

Mary Duford: And I was just like shocked and wondering if, what was going to happen with everything.

Winters: Saturday morning when the TV cameras started rolling, and everybody wanted interviews, and I made two statements, that was nobody loses their job, and school starts August the 15. That set the bar pretty high.

Lutts: Basically what that meant is, go get it done, figure out how to get it done.

Winters: But we had some other areas of the operation, the business side of the operation that I thought was critical. We needed to get the daycare center back up and running.

Deborah White: We were a publicly licensed child development center, just like any other center, although we are housed in a school and used as a training lab for students who are enrolled in early care and education, because the families we serve are depending on care so that they can go to work every day.

Erin Dickey: After the tornado hit, I went into immediate panic. Oh my gosh, I’m not going to have school next year.

Lutts: When Dr. Winters had said, you have one week to get the daycare center up and running, one of those, this seems like an impossible task. How on earth are we going to make this happen? We had an emergency board meeting on Sunday. The cosmetology teacher at the time came in and she said, “I know you’re looking for a place to have daycare,” and she said, “I know the perfect place.” And I said, “Oh, where?” Church of Christ south on Tenth Street in Yukon. And I said, “Oh, is that where you go to church?” And she said, “No.” And I said, “But you know somebody who does.” “No, I just drove by there, and I know that it’s a good place for us to have daycare.”

White: It was the first place we went, and I went in, and it was dark, on a Sunday afternoon. The youth minister, Gene Newberry, was there, he said, “Can I help you?” And I said, “Yes, you can. I’m from the school that blew away in the tornado on Friday, and we are looking for a place to have class.” And he said, “OK!” immediately, and I said, “Oh gosh, I need to explain to you what that means.” He’s like, “No big deal! We’ll use you as a mission project.”

Winters: They had just done a remodel project at the church. They had not permitted it for daycare center or any of that kind of stuff.

Lutts: We had gone through five days of getting everything that we needed so that we could get it ready, but we still didn’t have occupancy.

Fina: I was at a firefighters convention in Tulsa. So we were in a room talking and I got a call from Dr.. Winters, and he said, “I’m really in a bind.”

Winters: I said, “George, we’re having a heck of a time getting a fire inspection, and I don’t know what to do. I didn’t know who else to call.

Fina: We can’t get this thing inspected for quite a while, and if we don’t we can’t open up as soon as we need to.” I said, “Well, how about talking to the boss?” I said she’s standing right here. And the fire marshal from Oklahoma City was there, and I said I need you to talk to Dr.. Winters and just handed her the phone.

Winters: Within the hour, we had a fire inspector from the city of Oklahoma City come out and allowed us to move stuff in the next day and over the weekend and start daycare Monday morning.

Dickey: When I found out they were opening up at Church of Christ, I was like, yea, I still have a school to go to and this is going to be change, and it’s going to be amazing, and I’m going to be learning. And as a future teacher that was amazing because you see your teachers being flexible in a completely different environment than what they’re used to.

Bradley: Dr. Winters tasked me with getting ahold of our school district, getting everything put together to have an emergency board meeting as quickly as possible. So we started. OK we’re going to have school, we’ve got to have a place to have school. So we started tossing out different locations.

Lutts: We started kind of making those hard decisions. OK, where are we going to have school? How are we going to move all of those technical programs?

Bradley: And from that meeting, the John Holt Auto Dealership was proposed.

Lutts: By Monday morning, Dr.. Winters, John Holt, the leadership team had a handshake agreement that we were going to move into that facility and have school. There was a lot of little things that had to be accomplished before we could have school there, but we got everybody on board that needed to be on board to help us accomplish that mission.

Manuel: Yeah, I was surprised you know at how fast they were able to move everything over here.

Duford: I was a little nervous on whether or not school would be back up and running, but it was impressive because they did it in such a short period of time and really took into consideration all that we were going to need.

Manuel: I think we’d have to agree, well, you know, we’d make do with what we have.

Duford: We all still got to learn what we needed to learn and got through exactly what we needed in order to pass those final tests at the end of the year.

Female Announcer: Want to see more stories like this? All our segments are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV.

Rob McClendon: So with the students in temporary classrooms, the focus shifted towards the future. And that is where we pick up our story.

News 9 Reporter: One year later the bond issue to fund this project has already been passed and progress is being made. The skeleton of this building that you see behind me will stay as part of a brand new campus.

Gary Armbruster: I was actually in south Texas at a high school graduation for a family member when I saw Dr. Winters on CNN. Immediately, I’m on the phone with my staff saying I can’t be there but I need you to be there Saturday morning. Dr. Winters and the administration and board at CV Tech were very forward thinking. About a year and a half prior to that event, Dr. Winters asked us to do a master plan of their entire district from Chickasha to Cowan Campus to El Reno, and we did that. And it helped immensely.

Gayla Lutts: Architects then had an awareness not only of who we were as people who fit into those spaces, but also what our spaces looked like before and what our vision was maybe for them moving forward.

Armbruster: It was all hands on deck from the very beginning, from being here the next morning to being here the next few weeks and few months.

Cary DeHart: They wanted to come up with a plan for, you know, a state-of-the-art facility, make a disaster turn into a great asset.

Marc Belew: This is probably the one and only time that we have the opportunity to redesign this campus as it was built. So it was important to get it right.

Greg Winters: The problem is though is when you have a building that had been in existence for 43 years, that when you go back after a devastating tornado like we had, then you’ve got to build the building back in 2015, 2016 building codes, you’re not grandfathered out anymore.

News 9 Reporter: This skeleton will stay as a total of $45.7 million is poured into the El Reno campus.

Armbruster: It’s really difficult to create a plan of a new facility when you’ve already got existing columns and an existing structure in place, trying to fit a new 21 century learning environment that we were trying to create, so it was really difficult to fit all those parameters into that environment.

Winters: And so I knew at the end of the day that we were looking at you know a $50 million-plus replacement of the facility with equipment, furniture and all of those kinds of things. It necessitated the opportunity that we had to go out and vote a bond issue. We really didn’t have any other alternative.

Armbruster: First and foremost, we wanted to create a facility that when you walked in there was that wow factor. The students will walk into an area with flexible learning environments that will just help get them excited about learning, get them excited about being here and hopefully get excited about graduating.

Winters: We’re going to have the safest tech center in America when we get done, I can promise you that.

Armbruster: Trying to incorporate safe rooms that had multipurpose use. We incorporated a lot of flexible learning environments, smart boards, flexible furniture. So these areas are going to be used for those other 364 days as learning environments for the kids. But with you know a couple of closing of doors, now it’s a safe room.

Winters: And I think we’re probably going to have the top tech center in the United States when we get done, just based on good, solid design development in the phases that we’ve gone through to make sure we engage our staff.

Belew: It seemed like they took our requests and done the best they could to accommodate them.

Deborah White: They put together a plan that was just gorgeous. My classroom is going to be state-of-the-art as a collaboration area for my students and so we can do some small group instruction as well as continue with the individualized and group instruction that I do also.

DeHart: And the architects did a good job you know designing it, making it look good and making it functional and the flow of the students. A lot of input into it, a lot of thought.

[Music].

Bill Bradley: The students are at the center of what we do every single day.

Jacob Manuel: They care about the well-being of the students. They’re not just a number. They’re not just a student. It’s someone that they actually care about, seeing do well in life.

Bradley: If you can figure out what’s in the best interest of the students and do that, you can’t go wrong.

Winters: There were times when I’d drive home at night saying a little prayer that I hope I can pull this off. I don’t care how tough you are, I don’t care how long you’ve been doing what you’re doing. I don’t care how many decisions you’ve made, what you’ve done, where you’ve been, it doesn’t matter. When you go through what we’ve been through, nothing that you could ever do prepares you for what we went through.

Lutts: Any challenge has been overcome by the team spirit, positive culture, positive mindset, we’re going to get through this, we’re going to make this work.

Winters: That’s the part of the story that to me is the most incredible, is how this family that we call Canadian Valley Technology Center has stuck together.

Lutts: I really am proud to work for Canadian Valley and be a part of such a great team.

Winters: It’s not about the facility necessarily; it’s about the attitude and what you bring to the table, how hard you want to work. Do you want to persevere, do you want to overcome? That’s the part that I’m most proud of.

Winters: It gives us a sense of history. It gives us a sense of where we were, how we survived, where we’re going in the future.

Announcer: CV Tech, 1970 from the beginning, 2013 through the storm, 2016 and into the future, we prepare people to succeed through quality career and technical education programs and services.

Rob McClendon: Now, if you would like to learn more about Canadian Valley Strong, we do have much more on our website at okhorizon.com. Thanks for including us as part of your day. I’m Rob McClendon. Hope to see you back here next week when we take a look at being a soldier for life.