Michigan Couple Brings Help, Hope to Tornado Victims

Tuesday, July 27th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The tornado that ripped through parts of northeastern Oklahoma earlier this month brought more than just devastation to people in its path. The tornado also brought a lot of frustration to those who live in Cherokee County near the Sequoyah State Park. The tornado victims say they've chased away looters and are still waiting for some insurance companies to pay their claims. But a new ray of hope is shining though one couple from Michigan.

Ray Harrison has been removing trees, tree stumps and other debris from a rural neighborhood near Sequoyah State Park for two weeks. He and his wife, Laurie, have been helping Oklahoma tornado victims for almost a month and a half. During that time, he hasn't had the time to go home to Michigan. He even missed his son's high school graduation. "We look at this way. If I were one of them, I'd want someone helping me. When I talked to my son, he said, `Dad, I took pictures, so to know that you're helping those people makes it worthwhile to me', " said Harrison

The Michigan couple was cleaning up debris in the Oklahoma City area when they found out the people in the Sequoyah State Park area needed help. Nearly 30 homes in the area were damaged or destroyed. Neighbors say the cleanup has been going slowly. Workers didn't start repairing telephone lines in the area until the Oklahoma City work was done. The tornado victims in this part of Oklahoma didn't qualify for federal aid. Insurance companies are paying a lesser amount than what the cleanup actually costs.

The company which the Harrison's work for is only charging people what they can afford. "We are not getting it back financially. We are getting it back in many other ways," says Harrison. Michael Beamon, one of the tornado victims, is still waiting for his insurance money. He says he lost 65 trees. He says the Michigan company is doing the work before they get paid. "I think it's honorable. I really do. They are good people," said Beamon. Harrison says his company will make a profit because they were paid well in Oklahoma City. More importantly, he says, he'll be going home knowing he made a difference.