Oklahoma tornado reviving memories of Newburgh twister

May 21, 2013 4:01:16 PM PDT
The Oklahoma City tornado is stirring up memories of a twister in Orange County, New York.

The survivors know exactly what the children in Oklahoma are going through.

Holli Dayton is 29 years old now, but seeing the images from Oklahoma of a school in the crosshairs of a tornado immediately takes her back to the day when she was a 6-year old first grader and her school took a direct hit.

"Any natural disaster that happens, it's right there in the front of your mind again," said Dayton. "You have your own memories that are vivid and are never going away. You kind of wish you could pick up and go to help."

It was an unusually warm November day when the storm hit the school in Newburgh.

It was lunchtime and the cafeteria was packed.

Though never officially confirmed as a tornado, high winds knocked over the cafeteria wall, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the building.

Harvery Gregory was principal at the time and worked with the school district to provide counseling for surviving students.

He says the children in Oklahoma will face an even more difficult challenge.

"Because you're dealing with trauma not only related to the point of impact at the school, but the entire community," said Gregory.

East Coldenham elementary was remodeled, but the school remained open.

A memorial lists the names of those killed.

As for Holli Dayton, she has a message for those youngers now in a situation similar to hers 23 years ago.

"You've made it through, use it as you get older. Do your schoolwork, make something of yourself, because you've been given that second chance."