In May of 2013, an EF5 tornado wiped out heavily-populated parts of Moore, OK and created billions in damage.

The tornado flattened more than 300 homes and killed 24 people, including seven children who drowned when the school basement they took shelter in, flooded with water.

“I’ve been to help at a few other disasters but this was hundreds of times worse than anything we’d seen before,” said Mark David, Minuteman Disaster Response volunteer. “It was like a movie set. It was a field of debris about as far as you could see; about a mile and a half wide, 11 miles long and about three or four feet high. It was like a 30-square-mile junkyard … hard to imagine there had ever been structures down there.”

David said the most important thing they did during his deployment was assist the first responders.

“We were able to help them bare the load a little bit,” he said. “You could see a slight relief in them when they found out what we were trained at doing. “You see, first responders are incredible and they have a lot that they have to deal with, but these types of disasters are unique situations. A fire department may have had 35 years of emergencies, but never a tornado. We can say we have been through a few tornadoes or mass casualty incidents, so that also is kind of a relief to them.”