Tahlequah Daily Press

June 3, 2013

‘Saddening’

NSU quarterback Johnny Deaton watches in horror as his old school is leveled during May 20 tornado in Moore.

By BEN JOHNSON
Sports Editor

— All Johnny Deaton could do was watch — and pray for the best. Like the rest of the state, the Northeastern State quarterback was relegated to the role of spectator as the carnage unfolded on May 20 in Moore.

He was glued to the television as the EF-5 tornado — packing winds of 200-plus mph — left nothing but devastation in its wake. The swirling killing machine that took 24 lives also became of particular interest to Deaton after he saw the path of the tornado.

It was in the proximity of his grandmother’s house and his former elementary school.

“Haven’t got word but pretty sure my grandmas house was taken out in Moore!” Deaton said on Twitter in the late afternoon hours on that day. He followed shortly with, “Plaza towers school is flattened and my Gma lives 100 yards from it, thank god she got in a shelter!”

Deaton knew his grandma, Anita Irwin, had a storm shelter to take refuge in, but he didn’t know if she made it there in time.

“We were unaware if she made it to a cellar,” Deaton said in a recent interview with the Tahlequah Daily Press. “Or if she made it alive.”

Sure enough, Irwin’s house (near Penn Lane and SW 13th street) was leveled. Irwin, though, was OK.

“It was very shocking,” Deaton said of the destruction he saw on TV. “And it’s saddening to know she has no place to call home for now.”

Also reduced to a pile of splinters and plywood was where Deaton spent the early years of his childhood education.

“It’s crazy,” Deaton said of Plaza Towers Elementary School, which he said was 200 yards from his grandma’s house, “to know the playground I grew up on is now complete rubble.”

Deaton said his aunt — one of three who live in Moore — was one that lost her house during the 1999 tornadoes.

As for taking in the damage first-hand, Deaton said he has yet to visit Moore. But he plans on visiting and helping out in the near future.

“My mother was the only one who made the trip (to Moore),” Deaton said. “She was lost for words in awe because nothing was left, just flattened.”