Nation

Students back in class after deadly Okla. tornado

Many haunted by twister that killed 24

Plaza Towers Elementary students returned to class at a temporary location.
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Plaza Towers Elementary students returned to class at a temporary location.

MOORE, Okla. — After an anguish-filled summer, students returned to classes Friday at two elementary schools destroyed last spring by a deadly tornado that ripped a 17-mile path of devastation through the suburbs of Oklahoma City.

The children of Moore were eager to reunite with classmates, but many were still haunted by fears of the weather and memories of young friends lost to the monstrous twister that killed 24 people, including seven schoolmates.

Zack Lewis seemed to express the anxiety on everyone’s mind when he asked his parents a plaintive question: Who will come get him if another tornado approaches?

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Crosses were placed in tribute to students killed at Plaza Towers Elementary in a tornado on May 20 in Moore, Okla.
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‘‘He’s a little anxious. He didn’t want to eat,’’ Julie Lewis said, wiping tears from her cheeks after escorting her son to his first day of fourth grade.

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On the day of the storm, Zack’s father plucked the boy from his classroom when the weather grew threatening, so the child was not on campus when the twister hit at Plaza Towers Elementary. The schoolmates died when a wall collapsed on them.

The EF5 tornado with winds that exceeded 200 miles per hour also plowed through Briarwood Elementary School and destroyed scores of homes and businesses.

Counselors greeted students outside the Central Junior High School, which will share its campus with Plaza Towers students for at least the next year. Parents snapped photographs of their children in front of flowers and a red-and-white banner reading ‘‘Plaza Towers Elementary School. Welcome.’’