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Storm took classmates, parents as it swept through

Friday - 5/24/2013, 3:25am  ET

This undated handout photo provided by Brandie Candelaria shows Antonia Candelaria. Candelaria was killed when a tornado struck Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., on Monday, May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Brandie Candelaria)

CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN
Associated Press

MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- One loved unicorns. Another, nicknamed "ladybug," sang country songs. Another dreamed of one day owning a pontoon boat.

When a top-of-the-scale EF5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., it took with it 24 lives. Seven of them were children at Plaza Towers Elementary school; two were only babies.

These are the victims' stories.

___

JaNae Hornsby, 9

One of seven children killed inside the Plaza Towers Elementary School, JaNae loved to draw and sing. She loved being the center of attention, her father said.

JaNae's house, just three blocks from the school, also was destroyed by the tornado. Her father wanted to go back to the property to see if he could find a few of JaNae's things to keep.

"JaNae was the life of the party. If JaNae was there you were having a good time. She liked to sing, be a big sister, be a big cousin. She liked to draw," he said, smiling, as he remembered his little girl.

As family gathered to make funeral arrangements and comfort one another, Hornsby looked behind him into the house.

"If she was here she would just have everybody laughing and she would be in the midst of everything. She loved the spotlight," he said.

___

Karrina Vargyas, 4

Karrina was not quite old enough to be at school like her two older siblings. So she was at home huddled in a bathtub with her mother, younger sister and grandmother.

The tornado threw the women and children in different directions. Her parents could not find Karrina that night. It was only later that they learned that searchers had found Karrina's body in the rubble of what had been a neighbor's house.

Her father, Phillip Vargyas, said Karrina "had a smile that would light up the room." And whenever he fells the pain of her loss, her father said he likes to think of Karrina giving him a little hug.

"She was something else," Phillip Vargyas told The Oklahoman newspaper. "She wanted to figure skate. That was her dream in life."

___

Sydnee Vargyas, 7 months

Just 7 months old, Sydnee had crawled for the first time on Sunday. But she never really got to enjoy her newfound freedom.

Sydnee was huddled in the bathtub of her south Oklahoma City home with her older sister, mother and grandmother as a tornado bore down on them. The strong winds pulled Sydnee out of her mother's grasp.

When the debris stopped swirling, Laurinda Vargyas said she found Sydnee on a driveway.

"She was just laying there helpless. All I could do was sit there and hold her. She was already gone," Laurinda Vargyas told The Oklahoman newspaper. "They say she didn't suffer. So I've got to find peace with that."

___

Terri Long, 49

Long, a mother of three, was driving home from her job as a registrar at the Federal Aviation Administration when she stopped at a 7-Eleven store about 2 miles from her home. That's where she died when the tornado hit.

"I have no idea why she stopped there; I'm still trying to figure that out," said her husband of 10 years, Ken Long, his voice cracking with sorrow. But he has a guess: "She was probably trying to get away" from the tornado.

For several hours after the tornado, Long didn't know of his wife's fate -- not until her brother called her cellphone, and a police officer answered by saying her purse had been found at the convenience store.

Terri Long may have fared no better had she made it home. Her husband, who was at work at the time of the tornado, said their house was destroyed, too. A couple of days after the tornado, Long still didn't even have any pictures of his wife in his possession. He had only memories.

"She was just a happy person that loved her kids and family, loved Harleys and loved to be outside," Ken Long said.

A funeral was planned Friday for Terri Long. She would have turned 50 on Monday.

___

Kyle Davis, 8

He was known to his friends as "The Wall."

It was a tribute to the ferocity Kyle brought to his beloved sport, soccer, and the way other players seemed to bounce off him as they went for the ball, said his grandfather, Marvin Dixon.

Kyle was among six 9-year-olds who died in the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Kyle had taken shelter in the school's gymnasium with dozens of other students.

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