After losing children to a tornado, parents try to shelter others

After a massive tornado killed their children in their elementary school, grieving Oklahoma parents are joining forces to build twister-proof shelters in every school in the state.

Mikki Davis (far left) stands for a portrait with her parents, Terry and Sharon Davis; her daughter, Kaylee; and her stepson Ty Cole, who holds her son Kyle Davis' soccer ball, at her home in Noble, Okla., on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Kyle Davis, 8, who loved soccer, was one of the seven children killed in the May 20 tornado that struck Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla. Three months later, Davis and other grieving Oklahoma parents are joining forces to help prevent other families from suffering such unimaginable loss. The parents’ goal: To build twister-proof shelters in every school in the state.

Brandon Thibodeaux

A photograph of Kyle Davis, 8, is displayed in his mother's home in Noble, Okla., on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. “I can’t bring Kyle back,” Mikki Davis said of her son, 8. “But if his life was taken so that others can be saved in the future because we did something about it with this S.O.S., then that makes me proud to be his mom because he's saving lives in the future.” The group of parents is partnering with Shelter Oklahoma Schools [S.O.S.], a nonprofit started by an Oklahoma attorney, to raise enough money to help build underground shelters or above-ground safe rooms in all of the state’s nearly 1,800 schools.

Brandon Thibodeaux

Dan Angle and his wife, Nicole, stand at the pitcher's mound of a softball field at Buck Thomas Park in Moore. The Angles' youngest child, Sydney, was killed in the school devastated by a tornado. Sydney began playing softball at the age of 4 and played various positions but was preparing before her death to begin pitching the next season.

Brandon Thibodeaux

Sydney Angle is seen in a family photo. Dan Angle, her father, says of losing Sydney, “There’s no way to understand what kind of a loss this is until you go through it.… Imagine looking forward to the rest of your life knowing that you don’t ever get to be truly happy ever again -- being truly happy is a thing of the past.”

Kristi Conatzer sits holding a painted portrait of her daughter Emily, 9, in the bedroom of her surviving daughte,r Luci, at their home in Moore on Aug. 9. Emily was killed in the tornado. Kristi says it is very difficult for her to see only one backpack in the room now that a new school year is about to begin. She said it was hard to watch her surviving daughter, Luci, 8, suffer through the loss of her big sis. They used to share a room, but now there is only one bed and one backpack. “She breaks down like we do. She has her moments,” Kristi Conatzer said as tears rolled down her face. “She'll start sobbing in the back of the car, and she doesn’t understand. There was one point where she asked me why I didn’t just come and get them; if I would have come and got them, that Emi would have been alive. So we try to comfort her as much as we possibly can. There’s been a couple of times where she said she wanted to die so she could go to heaven with her. We tell her that there’s so much more, you can’t hurry to get there.... It’s very hard because you shouldn't have to have a conversation like that with an 8-year-old.”

Brandon Thibodeaux

Joshua Hornsby cleans off the cross standing for his daughter at the former site of Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore. Joshua's daughter, Janae, 9, was one of the seven children who were killed. Hornsby said the devastation should speak for itself when funding for storm shelters and safe rooms is considered. “After seeing a tragedy like this, you shouldn’t need any type of motivation to do it. … Just look at what happened and all, the babies that are gone.... No parent should ever see their child go before them.”

Brandon Thibodeaux

This aerial photo shows damage to Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was hit by a massive tornado in Moore, Okla., May 20, 2013. The tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on the school.

Steve Gooch / AP

A woman stands observing the informational signs and memorabilia that hang along the fence during a carnival held at the former site of Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore on Aug. 9.

Brandon Thibodeaux

Scott McCabe consoles his wife, Stacey, as they stand remembering their son, Nicolas, 8, in their backyard, near the field where he would ride his go-kart in Moore.

A photograph of Nicolas McCabe, 8, hangs in the living room amid memorial crosses at the McCabe home. “The hardest part of coming back to this house every day is the quietness, and that’s not getting very easy, very fast. But that’s OK, we're just where we are,” said Stacey McCabe.