Arizonans pray for loved ones in Oklahoma disaster zone

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Images from Oklahoma are painful to watch, especially for Arizona families with loved ones in the disaster zone.

“This makes you want to cry,” said Kristy Geiler, reading a post on her Facebook feed. Geiler, who now lives in Mesa, was born and raised in Oklahoma City. The majority of her family is still in Moore, Oklahoma, the city which appears to be hardest hit.

“A mile from where I lived, looks like a war zone,” Geiler said, pointing to a picture. She says the path the devastating tornado took blew right down the road from where they lived.

Her aunt’s house is located right next to one of the elementary schools that was leveled.

“Her house was hit; her neighbor’s house hit hard,” Geiler explained. “They don’t know how bad because they haven’t been able to get home yet."

While communicating via cell phone has been difficult, Geiler believes her loved ones are safe.
About ten minutes away in Norman, Ashley Hepner, an Arizona resident who attends the University of Oklahoma, rode out the storm below the school.

“I was in class, tornado sirens went off, so we went in basement of biology building and stayed there for half hour,” Hepner told 3TV.

Hepner has remained in contact with her mom in Gilbert via Facetime and Facebook, since cell phone lines were overwhelmed in the hours after the disaster.

“It’s definitely nerve-wracking for a mom, being far away,” said mom Jenn Hepner.

Ashley Hepner said she and students have been watching the news and monitoring the situation from campus.

“A lot of us want to help out right now,” said Hepner. “I feel like it’s a lot of sense of hopelessness.  We all really want to get involved, but there’s nothing we can do right now but sit and hope for the best.”

As Arizonans pray for loved ones in the areas affected, Kristy Geiler, who visited in the aftermath of the devastating 1999 tornado, knows her community has the strength and resilience to build back, once again.

“I think everyone will come together like they did before,” said Geiler.

The Arizona Grand Canyon Chapter of the American Red Cross says its volunteers are on standby for deployment.  The Red Cross advises families with loved ones in Oklahoma and Texas to download the Red Cross tornado app for smart phones.