Cameron Students Lend Help in Shawnee Tornado Clean-up

SHAWNEE, Okla._ Some Cameron students aren't spending their first few days of summer at the pool.

Instead, the group is helping to clean up what a devastating tornado tore down. They left Tuesday morning for Shawnee, Oklahoma, volunteering through an international disaster relief organization called "Samaritan's Purse."

The tornado swept through town just over a week ago, but a quick look at the mess left behind tells anyone the clean-up is far from over.

The sight is truly heartbreaking. Crushed cars, people living in tents next to their demolished homes, and household appliances jutting from piles of endless debris.

Cornelius Morning, a Cameron sophomore  from California was taken aback by what she saw.

"I've never seen anything like this," she said. "I saw it on TV when I watched that movie 'Twister', but I didn't know this was real."

After hearing of the tornadoes, she said she couldn't find a way to help fast enough. When she heard of the Cameron group coming to Shawnee, she signed up immediately.

Leslie Cothren, the Student Activities Specialist at Cameron, said she wanted her students to get plugged in there for a specific reason.

"This seemed to be one of the more forgotten areas. Everyone is going to Moore, so we decided Shawnee was a good place to go," she said.

When the group arrived, they saw the need for immediate help.

"It's just terrible that people's houses were destroyed and people lost everything they had," said Cameron sophomore Christopher Greene 

It's a lot more than I was expecting," said Sarah McLaughlin, another student volunteer. "It's gonna take a lot of cleanup."

Clean-up started as soon as they got to their destination. Their job, to sort through debris putting leaves and garbage in one pile and keepsakes in another, all while being surrounded by the former homeowners some now living in tents.

"It's rough. You don't think of that part. You think, 'Oh, they're gonna be in a hotel,'. But, this is their home. This is their family property or their land, or where they grew up. So it's hard to just leave it and go somewhere else when all your stuff is here, even if it's not the way that you knew it," Cothren said.

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel though, and today it came in the form of a tiny, but meaningful keepsake that somehow weathered the storm.

"We found a Christmas ornament, wrapped up in a piece of paper," Morning said. "It was perfect, like brand new."

The group of Cameron students did just what they needed to on Tuesday, reminding the people of Shawnee they are anything but forgotten, and that in the wake of disaster there is always hope.

Many of those students expressed an interest in returning to Shawnee when the rebuilding"process begins. Cothren said she is working to get groups together to go on Fridays once the fall semester begins.