First Oklahoma Tornado Victim, Ja'Nae Hornsby, Identified By Father; Search For Survivors Nearly Complete

on May 22 2013 1:38 AM
Oklahoma Twister
Tornadoes reportedly touched down Sunday in three U.S. states: Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa. Twitter

A 9-year-old girl who was described as "always smiling" is one of the first victims to be identified after the monstrous tornado demolished parts of Oklahoma Monday. Ja'Nae Hornsby, as confirmed by her father, was one of the seven children found dead in the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, KJRH reported. 

According to NBC News, the third-grader's family gathered at a Baptist church in Oklahoma City to mourn her untimely passing. Her aunt, Angela Hornsby, said she had seen her just last week.

“They like to play dress-up,” she said. “My daughter puts jewelry on them and I took pictures of them dancing together and they took video. They were just happy." Hornsby added, "She was always happy, always smiling."
 
Ja'Nae's father, Joshua, tried to rush to his daughter's school from his job in Oklahoma City as soon as he heard the tornado was heading toward Plaza Towers Elementary, but by the time he got there the building was reduced to rubble, Hornsby said. The EF-5 tornado stretched 17 miles wide and traveled at 200 mph, according to KJRH. The natural disaster claimed at least 24 lives, nine of them children. 
 
A day after the tornado, Moore residents returned to where their homes used to stand to sift for valuables and mementos. According to the Associated Press, after 24 hours of searching, fire chief Gary Bird said there weren't any more bodies or survivors to pull from the rubble. "I'm 98 percent sure we're good," he said in a news conference. The original death count was 51 on Monday night, but the state medical examiner believes some bodies were counted twice in the confusion. 
 
There have been some heroes amid the tragedy. Gabriel Wheeler, a student at Briarwood Elementary School, told CNN how his teacher shielded him and his peers by covering their heads with her body. "It was like the three little pigs, the big bad wolf coming to huff and puff on your house," the teacher, Julie Simon, told the news site. "There was this monster coming and we could hear it approaching ... The debris was falling, and we could feel the house was falling across the street. You knew it was coming straight for you."
 
For those interested in helping, Moore's community center is currently accepting donations of flashlights, batteries and lanterns for those without power, CNN reported.