Mika Brzezinski: I got a call from Joe at 5 o’clock on Monday telling me to turn on the news. After watching for a few minutes, I knew that the Morning Joe team needed to go to Oklahoma.
Joe Scarborough: I lived in Mississippi and Alabama for a decade so I grew up understanding the devastating power of tornadoes. Thirty years of living along Florida’s Gulf Coast exposed me to too many hurricanes. But nothing I saw growing up and in the news business other than Hurricane Katrina prepared me for the devastation that awaited us in Moore, Oklahoma last night.
MB: We arrived in Moore, Okla. in the middle of the night. One of our senior producers, Jesse Rodriguez, located a position just outside the Moore Medical Center, across the street from what had been a quiet residential neighborhood yesterday morning. The storm had reduced it to rubble.
MB: Our team of Morning Joe producers is a small group, and we all hustled. We swallowed our horror as reports filtered in about the lost children and casualty reports. The Medical Center was reduced to its concrete and steel framework, with debris still flying through now-empty window frames. Across the street, homes had been ripped off their foundations and scattered in different directions by the 200-mile-per-hour winds. Tornado damage is known for being indiscriminate, but with a mile-wide twister, the storm ravaged wide areas. There was no luck of the draw. Every house in the neighborhood was destroyed.
JS: As we drove into town, we feared that the death toll estimate—at the time, 51—was optimistic. Law enforcement officers and rescue vehicles filled the streets. Dozens were feared missing and dead at the elementary school.
MB: I found myself fixated on one room of a house that remained partially intact. It had a little girl’s CDs, a mirror, and a butterfly-shaped lamp. The girl’s closet door had been ripped away, but all of her dresses were still lined up perfectly, hanging exactly where she put them. It was a haunting reminder of how precious the simple things in life can be and how ruthless a twister’s wrath often is. This one was a wretched, cruel monster.
JS: As we were finishing our third hour on air, Moore, Okla.’s mayor told us that he expected the casualty count to hold steady. He reported that the city’s fire department had accounted for every citizen in town. Only four people were still missing. We were relieved to hear such good news.
JS: An hour later, reports came that the death toll had been lowered to 24. We mourn the loss of those Americans, and are heartbroken by the tragic deaths of seven children who lost their lives inside Plaza Towers Elementary School, but we know the death count could have been so much higher given the severity of the storm. We thank God that so many were spared and we’re grateful that school teachers, employers, first responders and concerned citizens moved so quickly to save the lives of those around them.