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A Tornado Tale, Part 3: Fending Off Scammers as the Community Steps In

This is the third in three installments detailing the experience of one American Indian family in the tornado that plowed through Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013. The Komahs and at least 20 other Indian families lost their homes. Part 1 and Part 2 begin the tale. 

Richard and Maxine Komah, having survived the tornado that leveled parts of Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013, now faced the task of cleaning up and finding a new place to live.

Although the tornado itself had ended, the onslaught had not. Richard and Maxine said people tried to take advantage of their need for debris removal by charging up to $6,000. But the couple didn’t need such faux assistance. Instead, family members and volunteers helped them haul away the rubble that had once comprised their home.

Among the helpers was Richard's employer, the Chickasaw Nation. Prayers and cedarings were offered on their behalf. The Komahs found themselves being interviewed by everyone from the BBC to the Comanche Nation News.

The tornado hit just a few days before the annual powwow held by Richard's family, the Yellowfish Family Descendants. The organizers turned the celebration into a benefit for the Komah family. The Komahs also attended a benefit powwow hosted by the Kiowa Tribe for all tornado survivors. Besides raising funds, the powwows gave these survivors a chance "to be normal and sit there for a little bit,” said Maxine.

"We were abundantly blessed by the people—their outpouring of prayers, thoughts and financing—people we don't even know," Maxine said. "It makes me feel that these people are really caring about us."

All that remains of what was once their home is the foundation, and even that is not viable; the Komahs are requesting that FEMA remove it. They are working to sell the lot on which their house once stood. For now they are renting a home between Moore and Norman that their insurance company found for them.

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"It's just temporary,” said Richard. “It's just to lay our heads down for right now."

Once matters are cleared with the tornado and its aftermath, the Komahs may build a new home. Based on their experiences, it will most likely include a storm shelter.

More Oklahoma tornado coverage:

Oklahoma Tornadoes: New Website Collects Aid for Native Victims

Oklahoma Tornado Destroyed 20 Indian Families’ Homes; Tribes Mobilize Relief

Oklahoma Awakes to Grim New Reality as Recovery Efforts Begin

More Than 50 Dead as Tornado Decimates Moore, Oklahoma, Hometown of Rep. Tom Cole, and Levels School

Tornadoes Slice Through Midwest, Threatening Indian Country