OAK GROVE, Mo. -- Monday night's devastating tornado in Oak Grove toppled hundreds of headstones at the town cemetery. The tornado knocked down century-old trees and century-old headstones. The damage was a lot for people in the community to take, who were already dealing with devastation in their neighborhoods.
The tornado that damaged hundreds of homes also nearly wiped out half of the nearly 200-year-old cemetery.
Pete Royer lives across the street. He came first thing Tuesday to visit his parents graves, thankful for his own life. Instead the first thing he saw was a pontoon boat right in the middle of the cemetery.
"It took us a half-hour to figure out what in the world it was," Royer said.
He and volunteers have spent the past two days clearing dozens of trees from gravesites, but there's still a lot of work to be done. He estimates as many as 2,000 headstones were toppled.
"They weigh so much it`s even hard to push one over, there's some of them weigh two, three, four-thousand pounds and I don`t see how the wind could blow them over, I really don`t," Royer said.
Even more heartbreaking, grave markers celebrating love, life, and service were split in half.
"This is important to all the veterans and their flagpole got hit bad," said Valerie Harms, who has family buried there.
"This is where you come to pay your respects and to see it devastated like this is crazy."
Thanks to volunteers, Royer says he's ready to start trying to put tombstones back on their bases and seal them. It may not be as immediate of a concern to people left without homes, but with many in Oak Grove having five generations or more buried at the cemetery, he says it's important to give them some place to grieve.
If you want more information about whether your loved one's headstone was damaged, click this link.