One of the many heroes in the wake of the devastating tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, lives here in Southern California. A Santa Clarita-area man and his wife were visiting their daughter in Moore and he helped pull survivors from a badly-damaged nursing home. Ted Chen reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 26, 2013.
A Southern California man went with his wife to Oklahoma last week to visit their daughter. He returned a hero.
On May 20, Tom Maynor of Canyon Country and his wife, Cathy, were watching a movie in a Moore, Oklahoma theater when employees rushed in and announced a tornado was coming.
They waited out the disaster in a hallway. They felt only a stiff breeze and a slight vibration - the tornado had narrowly missed the movie theater.
"I felt a breeze, and then I felt more breeze, and then I could feel the wall kind of vibrate a couple of times. Nothing big, I didn't hear any noises."
When they emerged, they saw a scene of ruin: damaged cars, toppled buildings and an endless field of debris. The tornado leveled thousands of structures, causing billions of dollars in damage, and killed at least two dozen people.
When Cathy Maynor first saw it, she didn't believe it.
"This is a joke," she recalled thinking. "This is a movie set."
But it wasn't. As soon as people realized what had happened, their thouhgts turned to the survivors trapped inside ruined buildings.
"Just about everybody who didn't have small children was literally running out toward these buildings," she said.
Tom Maynor hurried over to a nearby nursing home that was severely damaged. Maynor said he helped firefighters pull senior citizens out of the rubble.
"The debris pile was a good 10, 12 feet tall," he said. "We had to basically help each senior get off of the pile."
Tom Maynor told his wife he didn't ever want to live in Oklahoma after seeing the destruction the tornado wrought.
His wife said she disagreed.
"I could live (in Oklahoma)," she said, "because the people were just so amazingly wonderful."