By Boyce Bowden
Photo: The Rev. Keith King holds the center portion of a stained glass window of Broadway UMC blown out by a tornado. Photo by Boyce Bowden
TECUMSEH, Okla.-- About 5 p.m. on May 10, in this town of nearly 7,000 about 75 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, Keith King—pastor of the Broadway United Methodist Church—was leaving home to go mow a friend’s lawn.
His wife called him back.
“Aimee told me I had better take a look at the TV weather report,” King recalls. “So we looked at the Doppler Radar and saw the tornadoes was getting pretty hairy and coming our way fast. I decided I had better stay close to home and mow the yard later.”
Fifteen minutes later, Keith and Aimee and their two daughters—Ella Kate, who is five and Mary Beth, who is 15 months old, were heading across the street to a neighbor’s storm shelter.
“About 15 of us were in there waiting until the storm passed over,” says King. Ella Kate—the five-year-old—says she was scared. “I was praying,” she said. Did it help? “A little,” she says.
When the Kings and their neighbors came out of the shelter, they saw several big trees had blown down near them. Roofs and carports were gone.
“Our parsonage had missing shingles, “says King. “Our fence was down. Part of a neighbor’s trampoline was up against our house. But one of the most amazing sights was the big tree in our front yard. It had been twisted—a branch that had hung over the street was now hanging over our house—but the tree was still standing.”
“My little mother and I are still standing and our house is still standing. We didn’t lose anything compared to many of our friends and neighbors. Walk just a block down this street and you will see real devastation.”
King and his wife have walked through the neighborhood asking people what they needed most. They’ve found a wide range of needs.
A 90-year-old woman asked for help removing a tree that had fallen on her house. Several others requested help removing trees and debris. Men from the church, equipped with chainsaws, responded quickly.
UM Men help clean-up effort
King says churches in Tecumseh work well together. Mark Winders, president of the United Methodist Men agrees. “We are like most small towns in Oklahoma,” he says. “When we see folks in trouble, we don’t ask them what denomination they are. It doesn’t matter if they are Methodists, Baptists, or atheists. We take care of each other.”