MOORE, Okla. - Even seasoned volunteers, with years of experience responding to the worst natural disasters of the last decade, were taken aback by the scene that greeted them in the shattered neighborhoods of Moore on Wednesday.
"This is probably, definitely the worst," said Michele Heaver, a Major in the Salvation Army of Kansas City, Kan. "I've never seen devastation as bad as I'm seeing today. It's totally demolished in this area."
Heaver, part of a two-person team sent down from Kansas City on Tuesday, has 25 years of experience in responding to disasters nationwide -- including two weeks spent helping survivors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Here, her mission was straightforward: Get to the hardest-hit neighborhoods, and find a way to help.
So in the early afternoon heat Wednesday, Heaver and John Miller of Leawood, who is also an experienced disaster volunteer, set off to bring what comfort they could to the families returning to their homes today near Telephone Road.
In some cases, that meant dispensing water from the back of their small SUV. In others, it meant simply listening.
At one home, Heaver prayed with a group of residents resting in the shade. Her prayer was one of thanks, but she also asked that the insurance adjuster call back soon.
That's par for the course for the Salvation Army, Miller explained. Oftentimes, it's the little things after a disaster people most want to talk about. That makes his job simple.
"It means be a good listener. Help people try to sort through what has happened," Miller said. "Let them share their pain. And in turn, try to share hope."
On Wednesday, hundreds of miles from home, that's exactly what they did.