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Deadly tornados tore through several Oklahoma communities on May 19, 20 and 31, 2013. These are the stories of natural disaster and its aftermath, and of communities healing and recovering.

SLIDESHOW: Hundreds Gather For Tornado Anniversary, Hospital Groundbreaking

Local and state officials gathered Tuesday morning in Moore to honor the 24 people killed and hundreds injured May 20, 2013 when a tornado struck the city.

Gov. Mary Fallin said thousands of Oklahomans went above and beyond the call of duty last year, but singled out educators from Briarwood and Plaza Towers Elementary Schools.

"Our teachers who used their own bodies as a shield, to help save children, to help protect children,” Fallin said. “Our teachers are our heroes."

The Moore Fire Department Honor Guard tolled a bell two dozen times to remember the victims of the deadly EF5 tornado. Fallin said many people affected by the tragedy are still recovering, and it’s important not to forget them.

"While we witnessed the destruction, while we witnessed the loss of life, and we mourn that, we also have witnessed the determination, the strength, the resilience and the spirit, and the heart and soul of Oklahoma,” Fallin said.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole’s Fourth Congressional District includes his hometown of Moore. He noted the efforts of a group not represented at this morning's ceremony.

"Sometimes we forget about them a little bit, but the federal government was here,” Cole said. “And they were here very big time, in a very big way, on the very day that we needed them."

After the ceremony, Fallin, Cole and city officials broke ground on the new Moore Medical Center. The governor said the disaster showed the importance of community hospitals.

"The medical center was struck, and their own personnel in that center made sure that no life was lost,” Fallin said. “It's quite remarkable after that facility took such a huge hit."

Norman Regional Health System says the new, $29 million hospital is scheduled to open in 2016.


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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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