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Updated Jun 3, 2013 - 6:16 am

Phoenix couple makes vacation detour to help tornado victims

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix couple were on their way to a romantic destination, but when tornadoes struck the Oklahoma City area over a week ago, their vacation turned into something else.

Casey Jones and his wife Lori were on a driving trip to Niagara Falls. They had made it to Nebraska when they heard that a massive tornado had struck Moore, Oklahoma.

They felt a calling to turn their car and head there instead.

"It was kind of like we were led," said Casey. "I just kept talking about it with my wife saying, Maybe we should go there. Maybe we should do something."

Appearing this past Saturday on KTAR's "Arizona' Morning News Weekend with Gayle Bass and Bob McClay," Casey said he couldn't believe what he saw when they got to Moore.

At first it wasn't so bad, they were in an area where Casey said the damage was about equivalent to a Phoenix monsoon storm. But they kept driving, and things looked very different.

"On both sides of the road, everything was like a bomb went off, I mean it was just leveled," said Casey. "There was a shopping center that was mostly down. There's buildings that you couldn't tell what they were anymore. They were just gone."

The couple found a local church and asked what they could do to help. They were immediately asked to deliver 400 lunches to people trying to clean up the mess that had been their homes. They were given a map and told to go into one of the hardest hit areas, near an elementary school that was destroyed by the twister.

"It was really hard to give away the 400 lunches," said Casey. "People would say, Oh no, give it to someone who needs it.' They were standing there and they haven't eaten lunch or anything else that day. We would have to say, I'm sorry, but you need it.' We would basically have to talk them into taking it because they were worried about other people who might need it."

They also worked with the church and Samaritan's Purse to help residents clean up their damaged homes. Samaritan's Purse is a Christian relief organization run by Franklin Graham, the son of Evangelist Billy Graham.

Casey says people in Moore need food and supplies, but they also need something else.

"They need people to love on them," he said. "To just talk them through it. They've lost everything. You just have to totally respect them and help them understand why it happened to them."

After spending several days in Moore, Casey and Lori decided to leave the area, and they resumed their journey on Friday. They left Oklahoma City just three hours before another round of devastating tornadoes struck the area that night.

Casey and Lori don't want any credit for making the detour to help in Oklahoma. They said that they were led by God to do what they did, and they are giving him all of the glory.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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