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Heroic Oklahoma First Responders, part II

Published: 6/21/2013
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Editor's Note:
Michele De Vinney Schmoll continues her three-part report of the large animal response to tornado devastation in Moore, Oklahoma. She helps Horse Evacuations East, owns a Virginia farm and is volunteer coordinator and a foster for United States Equine Rescue League in Northeast North Carolina and Tidewater Virginia Regions. She provided assistance, networked, solicited donations from many companies, and interviewed many individuals on the ground in Moore.

Michele writes:
It was gut wrenching to hear Dan Mullinex's stories and it often brought tears in my eyes. I knew then I had to put it on paper and share it. I spoke to Dan Mullenix, Kevin Trimmell, Amanda Eggleston, and Dr. McCook. I learned from each of them a little piece of what they were doing so I put it all together in the story you have here.

Read Part I
Read Part III

By Michele De Vinney Schmoll

When Amanda Eggleston arrived at Celestial Acres, in Moore, she felt sick from seeing all the news images praying some were saved because it was her hometown.  She grew up showing horses, doing pony club activities and playing polo with many in the community. 

When she arrived in Moore she sadly recalls, “The only way I knew that I was at the Celestial Acres Training Facility was their gate." “The only way I knew that I was at the Celestial Acres Training Facility was their gate.  I felt like I was punched in the stomach when I realized it was really gone.  It was one thing to see it on TV.  I felt like I was in a movie. I felt like this couldn’t possibly be real.  There was nothing left.”  

Tuesday, May 21, they rounded up as many as they could but traffic was bumper to bumper and they couldn’t get back in because of the road conditions and the chaos with their large rigs.  Responders worked on the outskirts of Moore offering assistance to any they could find.

Dr. McCook and Dr. Chancey, DVM with Remington Park Race Track were able to gain access and go door to door through the affected neighborhoods to several small farms. They found several horses that had numerous lacerations, abrasions and injuries. They were all in deplorable and dangerous conditions with debris everywhere.  Several were in barns that were on the verge of collapse. 

Said Dr. McCook in an interview while driving through Moore:
“You see images on TV like everybody else and the helicopter flies over and all that but seeing it in person is just entirely different.  Working on the race track you see horses from time to time break down.  Fracture their legs and things like that but you don’t ever see a 100 horses in a shape like that.  You don’t see a whole field sort of littered with unspeakable things that have happened to them.  I think that is the thing that is the toughest, the scale of numbers.”
Dr. McCook goes on to say,
“It’s a tough scene and I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to get some of those images out of my head. It’s not something anybody should every have to see.  I’m glad I went. Somebody needed to be there. I think all of us agree that, the veterinarians in particular I have spoken with that made their way down, we needed to be there for that reason.  We take an oath and we just tried to do what we could.  I don’t have any regrets about going down there.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Tuesday night after seeing all the devastation, Kevin Trimmell, the Facility Manager for Heritage Place, spoke with his boss and Remington Park Race Track to open up their facility to horses displaced by tornadoes until their owners can get back on their feet.   Kevin is also part of the OLFR team. 
Kevin says:
“We are a close knit community working with area veterinarians and horse owners like a family.  It was only natural to open our doors to assist.”  
Heritage Place has 660 stalls with everything needed to offer shelter since it is their off season.   Horses that were healthy enough for transport were moved to Heritage Place to make more room at the local equine veterinarians to treat injured ones.  Heritage Place has also been a central drop off location for much needed medical supplies, feed, hay, halters, buckets, fly spray and especially stall bedding (which they are running out of) since they have the storage.  

Once Heritage Place was all ready to start receiving guests, Kevin and some of the team delivered feed and hay to horse owners in Moore and in Carney areas. 
Kevin told me, “It a wonderful surprise when Ms. Rodeo Illinois, Cassandra Lynne Spivey showed up with two friends with donated hay, feed and other supplies they collected.  They asked if they could go with me to help deliver to farm owners. So we loaded up everything and were on our way.  It was a real joy to watch these young people interact with the residents that were so grateful for the help and supplies.”   

I spoke to Dan Mullenix close to midnight one night after he and his team had been out working all day capturing not just loose horses but also a very rowdy 1400-pound bull that didn’t want to be caught.  Near exhaustion, Dan said that he had to take a moment to cry for everything he had seen and for everyone in the community that had lost so much.  Walking live horses past the dead ones was really hard.  Dan’s voice cracked a little.
“I have seen a lot of things in my life but nothing can prepare you for this amount of devastation,” he said. 
Dan also described one encounter with a resident who slipped something in his back pocket. 

When Dan got home that night after 1:00 a.m. he checked his pockets and found the $60 dollars. He remembered the exchange with a little tear because the people had lost everything and still willing to give to help others.

Coming soon: Part III, response and triage continue. Plus, plans for the next one.

Read Part I

Read Part III

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2/7/2014 Patti
What a wonderful organization. Thank you

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