The Moore American

August 14, 2013

Mom fights for shelters

By Mark Schlacht
The Moore American

MOORE — On June 4, 2004, Nicolas McCabe was born to Scott and Stacey McCabe just outside their Moore home; he came into the world so quickly his parents couldn't even make it to the hospital.

Nicolas was a bright young man with an ornery grin who adored his family and his friends at Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary. He loved Legos, country music and going to the lake where he dreamt of having his own pontoon boat one day.

At 2:59 p.m. May 20, the National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for south Oklahoma City and Moore. Meteorologists and storm spotters were tracking a large and extremely dangerous tornado near Newcastle; it was heading northeast at 20 mph. Residents in the path of the storm were urged to go to a storm shelter or an interior room of a sturdy building if they could not get underground. 

The tornado, which had peak winds estimated at more than 200 mph, created an estimated maximum 1.1-mile-wide damage path and ripped through Moore. Damaged or destroyed structures included hundreds of homes, businesses and Plaza Towers Elementary. The tornado tragically cut short seven little lives at the school; among them was Nicolas, a third-grader.  

Monday afternoon, the McCabes were in Edmond at GFS Storm Shelters, 3404 S. Broadway, site of a new showroom for the growing business. Stacey is one of several Moore parents raising money for storm shelters in Oklahoma schools; her son’s school did not have one. 

McCabe and other parents of children killed at Plaza Towers have helped create Shelter Oklahoma Schools — — a nonprofit that will work with local schools and cities to build or fortify storm shelters across the state. 

McCabe said out of 1,800 school structures in the state, less than 100 have storm shelters.

“If our children had storm shelters then they would be safe, and we should be able to feel like when we send our kids to school that they are safe,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons our son stayed at school because we thought he was safe.”

On May 20, McCabe was at her office watching the tornado, not realizing the path of destruction it would leave in its wake. As she started driving toward her house she realized how destructive it was. Then she heard on the radio about Plaza Towers. 

During the ensuing hours, the McCabes experienced the excruciating process of giving first responders information about their son — where he was in the structure, what he was wearing, if they had a photo.

“It’s not fair,” she said. “And I don’t ever, ever want another parent to have to go through that.”

Nicolas was a very giving child, his mother said. He would always take a couple of extra items from his mom and dad in the morning and take them to school. Later they found out he was taking them for other students who didn’t have them. 

“So that’s Nicolas’ legacy,” his mom said. “Our son was a very giving person. I don’t know why. God just blessed him that way.”

McCabe said she hopes others will live by her son’s example and give to others. A lot of people don’t think helping others is worth it anymore, she said. Her son liked those smaller-sized pizzas for lunch; he gave some of them away to a classmate who was one of the other victims, she said.

Thunder player Nick Collison, who was there for a remote with WWLS The Sports Animal host Jim Traber, also spent some private time with the McCabes who brought Isaiah, 9, Nicolas’ classmate and best friend.

The McCabes gave Collison a T-shirt related to the storm shelter fundraising effort, and Collison said he would learn more about what they are doing. The 6-foot, 10-inch player spent a little one-on-one time with Isaiah, who said he has been to several Thunder games.

So far, the effort has raised about $2 million, McCabe said. Thunder players Sam Perkins and Russell Westbrook are among those who have made a donation to Shelter Oklahoma Schools, she said. Scott McCabe said the goal is to have a storm shelter at every Oklahoma school.