By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Marcus Moeller left Joplin on May 22, 2011, about 31⁄2 hours before an EF-5 tornado touched down.
But on Monday afternoon Moeller stood outside and watched in Oklahoma City as a tornado came within about one-half mile of the Mid-America Christian University campus where he is the assistant women’s basketball coach.
“I was meeting with my athletics director in his office,” Moeller said Tuesday night in a telephone conversation. “He said ‘take a look out my window’ and it looked a little eerie. As the realization came that it was a tornado, the sirens went off and we took the entire campus to shelter.
“He and I watched it all happen. At one point the funnel got to a certain point, and the rain stopped and the hail stopped. We headed to the shelter, and when we got to the shelter, it started to grow and grow and grow. By the time it was east of our campus and through the heart of Moore, it was quite large in mass. It was awesome in the truest sense of the word, and I don’t mean entertaining.”
Moeller, former women’s assistant basketball at Missouri Southern and a four-year player at Ozark Christian College, escaped the tornado without injury or property loss.
“I’m very blessed and fortunate,” he said. “I’m safe, my fiance (Hannah Owen, the women’s coach at Hilldale Free Will Baptist College in Moore) is safe. Both of our employers are safe. Both of our cars and houses are safe, her entire family who lives here is safe.
“We have multiple student-athletes who are local kids who lost everything. But no one that we know of at school or at church has lost anyone. We’re very fortunate.”
Moeller and Owen, who will be married on Sept. 6, were not able to contact each other for a while Monday afternoon.
“The tornado started south of our campus and was moving straight east toward her campus (before turning northeast),” Moeller said. “Neither of us had cell service, but through other contacts, she knew I was fine, and I knew she was fine. Once it started heading east, my apartment basically was in the path of it, my fiance was in the path of it. ... It was a nerve-wracking hour.
“Once we got the OK to do what we needed to do, I drove as far east as I could. I parked my car in a residential neighborhood and walked about two miles to my apartment. The tornado had gone about two blocks south of my apartment.”
According to reports, the tornado sirens provided about 16 minutes of warning. However, there was warning long before the sirens sounded.
“Radar and the weathermen were saying at 8 a.m. we would be getting crazy weather in the afternoon,” Moeller said. “Oklahoma City public schools let their students out at 1 o’clock, but Moore didn’t make the same decision, and that’s where it went through.”
The Mid-America Christian campus regained power and water shortly before noon on Tuesday.
“Tuesday has been organizing efforts of people on campus ... who can we get where and how can we help,” Moeller said. “I was standing in a room full of Ozarka water and Gatorade, just waiting to learn where it could be taken.”
Moeller, a graduate of College Heights Christian School, said he heard Monday from several from family members and friends.
“I can’t tell you the (amount of) response from friends and family and the coaching world ... it’s overwhelming,” he said. “How many people checked up on me, including some people I didn’t know liked me.
“I moved from Joplin for the first time in my life two years ago on May 22. I went with my family to the 11 a.m. service, went out to eat and headed out of town at 2 p.m. When I pulled into the parking lot here in Oklahoma City, my mom called and said things were getting pretty crazy here and they were going to take cover. We never did that. We sat on the porch.
“But that night I was watching my hometown on CNN. Fast forward to this ... I have an uncle who lives in Kansas City. This is the third time in two years I’ve gotten a call from him, saying don’t move to Kansas City because apparently you are a tornado magnet.”