Sunday at First Baptist Church of Moore, Oklahoma, a memorial service was held for those who lost their lives in the Monday, May 20 tornado that tore through 17 miles of the state, destroying and damaging thousands of homes and businesses, as well as two elementary schools.
Teachers and students from Briarwood Elementary were present, along with many state legislators, including Governor Mary Fallin, who called for the service.
Governor Fallin spoke at multiple times during Sunday’s memorial, quoting scripture from Psalm 46 and 73. Fallin ended her address proclaiming, “God gives strength to move forward, to heal, and to rebuild. Our state will be stronger, and will go forward.”
President Obama visited the state earlier Sunday to tour the damaged area with Governor Fallin.
Highlights from the memorial
During the service, Archbishop Paul Coakley, Rabbi Vered Harris and First Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Clarkson offered prayers to God. The Ambassador Choir & Orchestra sang By His Stripes We Are Healed, followed by a mixed group of choirs called the Oklahoma Strong Community Choir, who sang a moving rendition of Amazing Grace.
A video of highlights can be viewed on News OK.
After an introduction by Governor Fallin, first grade teacher Ms. Waynel Mayes of Briarwood Elementary gave her heartwarming story of how she and her class made it through the storm that day. Mays explained that as the storm headed toward them the class sang songs and prayed. When the tornado was on top of them, power and lights failed, and the class sang louder while the teacher prayed.
When the storm had passed, Ms. Mays began calling out her students by name, telling them they were heroes, until all were accounted for. She then told them a real life hero would be coming soon to help them, and that they did great because they listened and followed directions.
And soon a real life hero would indeed arrive and rescue the class.
The song the class sang during the storm, at the request of one of the first grade students, was Jesus Loves Me. The class sang their song again Sunday night, in front of the survivors in attendance at the memorial service to an emotional crowd. Governor Fallin called the children the Oklahoma Strong Children’s Choir.
In her address, Governor Fallin encouraged the people, declaring that in the midst of tragedy, “We have seen the best of Oklahoma come forth. Oklahoma will be Oklahoma strong.” Fallin also read from Psalm 73, “My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” and expressed her faith in God to give strength to the people of Oklahoma to heal and rebuild.
The service concluded with the congregation singing as they held hands together in the air.