By Debi DeSilver
"It's right above us. It's right above us."
Amazingly enough, Ken McCrackin's voice was fairly calm as a tornado dropped from the sky May 24.
The Pit Stop, located at 408 W. Country Club Dr., seemed to take a direct hit, as seen on a video Ken recorded. His daughter posted it on YouTube and can be found on the Internet by searching for "Tornado Footage Chickasha OK May 24, 2011."
The video clearly shows the tornado forming and dropping. Ken is heard discussing which way the funnel might go with an employee from Eduardo's Cafe, Bradley Uehles.
Eduardo's is located just across Highway 81 (South 4th St.) and Ken said Bradley had come over when the storm started looking serious.
When the siren blew, Ken and Bradley headed to the area underneath the shop.
Ken kept recording. He captured the devastating sounds of a building being demolished – glass breaking and debris falling and being tossed around.
"Stay calm. Stay down," he is heard telling Bradley. "Once the eye gets past us, we'll be all right."
After the tornado passed, the next images on Ken's video show the utter destruction.
"It didn't really hit me (what had happened) until we came up and looked around," Ken said in a recent interview.
Owners Denise McCrackin and Ken McCrackin bought the business about 15 years in December 1995.
Denise said that there was never a question about whether they would rebuild or not.
She said the last six months of "rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding" has been challenging, but they are both grateful for all the community support and encouragement they have received.
In an interview a week before Thanksgiving, Denise said trying to keep an "attitude of gratitude" is what has carried them through.
"We are so lucky to be in this community," she said. "We want to say 'thank you' to everyone who has stopped by and helped just out of their own generosity.
"Through this last six months, we have had people come in and check on us and our customers have told us they miss us being open," she said.
Denise admitted she was relieved on opening day, Nov. 15, when the customers started rolling back in.
"When you're down for so long, it's nice to hear customers say, 'We're not going anywhere. We are waiting on you,'" she said.
No matter what happens, Denise said, it's always important to look for the hidden blessing.
"You know, we got a face-lift out of this. We got new equipment. We are better able to serve our customers than we were before. We've had a great opportunity to see just how wonderful people are," she said. "We are lucky that no one was hurt. It could have been a lot worse."
After all the ins and outs of dealing with their insurance company and everything involved in the rebuilding process, Denise does have one tidbit of advice to pass along.
"I would encourage people from this point forward to document by video whatever you have. We lost everything in the tornado and our accountant lost everything in the tornado. It was tough rebuilding the paperwork.
"Make a video and store it in a safe place. After an event like that, it's hard to recall everything. It's hard to prove what you had," she said.
In addition to the oil change business, the McCrackin's also owned a car wash that was demolished. They chose not to rebuild that business. The U-Haul rental business they run took a hit on damaged trucks, but Denise said U-Haul absorbed that cost.
All-in-all, the tornado that roared through in seconds left the McCrackins with close to $700,000 in damages, she said.
"Our first day back open was a good day," she said. "We are happy to be back."