Shawnee Residents Continue To Rebuild Months After Tornado - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

Shawnee Residents Continue To Rebuild Months After Tornado

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New homes and building materials now sit in parts of Shawnee that were once covered in storm debris. New homes and building materials now sit in parts of Shawnee that were once covered in storm debris.
SHAWNEE, Oklahoma -

Months after a deadly tornado, signs of progress are starting to show in the Shawnee area.

The road to recovery is now marked with about a dozen new mobile homes in Steelman Estates, which is encouraging news for residents who lost everything.

New homes and building materials now sit in parts of Shawnee that were once covered in storm debris.

The May 19th tornado took out dozens of homes in the Steelman Estates mobile home park near Bethel Acres, where one man lost his life.

Aaron Ward lost everything.

"I couldn't even find any pieces of my house at all, found my dog but that's pretty much it," Ward said.

Ward and other neighbors chip in regularly to help build storage sheds for other storm victims.

He still sleeps in his van and inside a small tent, like several residents in the park are doing, including longtime volunteers, the US Defenders.

"Most of the time you don't see people stay this long," said Stick Keiner, Oklahoma commander of the US Defenders.

"I mean there were five total organizations out here, us being one, and within a week after the tornado, about 2 weeks max, we were the only one, and it's like where did everybody go?"

Stick Keiner's camp of 40 bikers has now downsized to six volunteers. The group helps put each new trailer in place that organizations, such as the Oklahoma Baptist Association have donated. One church donated loads of wood and materials that can build about 50 sheds, and residents say they just need volunteers with some carpentry skills to help them do it.

"Now you look around, and a lot of people say well that's a lot of vacant lots, hey, that's progress, because it was trash piles and heaps," Keiner said.

Keiner says he'll stay in Steelman Estates as long as he's needed and hopes to have more residents moved into more permanent homes by the time we get our first snow fall.

It's a big relief for residents, who feel the area has been overlooked. Ward recently got a tattoo on his arm that says "May 19, 2013" as a reminder.

"It's a phoenix rising from the ashes of the date of when it happened," Ward said. "We will rise again from this."

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