TODAY   |  May 22, 2013

Rep. Tom Cole: People in Okla. ‘are awfully tough’

Congressman Tom Cole grew up in Moore, Okla., and still lives in the town today. He talks about the devastation in his hometown after it was hit by a powerful tornado Monday afternoon and the recovery process.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> reporter: and another guy who was born and raised in this town is republican congressman tom cole . i say he was born here, this is his home, and for a while, he served as a groundskeeper at the plaza towers elementary school that was destroyed in this storm. congressman, it's great to see you. good morning.

>> glad your here.

>> thank you, it's good to be here. how are your family doing, how are your neighbors doing?

>> very lucky. our street was spared. so neighbors are fine, family is fine, just struggling with no power, but that's not much of a problem when we see what other people are dealing with.

>> you were back in washington, saw the news. what was your thought? you know, the history of tornadoes in this area?

>> we've had 4 in 15 years. i was meeting with a colleague of mine and had the television on, and i looked up and said, my gosh, that's my cleaner's that's just been destroyed. and obviously began to immediately try to get back here. and we knew we were going to have a tough situation on the ground, but these are awfully tough people. and we've been -- done this before, sadly, so we're pretty good at dealing with it.

>> 1999 , the may 3rd tornado, like $1 billion in damage. have you even begun to try to figure out what kind of money it's going to take to rebuild this community?

>> it's early, you know, and the first thing you've got to do is focus on the people. obviously, the folks that lost family and friends and homes and make sure they're taken care of. and that's underway. you know, the larger damage assessments will take a little bit longer, but it's going to be very serious. i think, probably, you know, in '99, the f-5 was on the ground longer and affected more areas. moore probably hit harder this time, than it was last time. so, you balance one off against the other. but clearly, we're going to need some help and i'm sure it will be forthcoming.

>> back in january, you did something that a lot of your republican colleagues did not do. you supported that bill for federal assistance , money for the victims of hurricane sandy. was part of your vote on that issue because in the back of your mind, you were thinking about your community, knowing that it was vulnerable to mother nature ?

>> you know, it was. i actually told a colleague at the time, you know, you have to remember -- he asked me, why are you voting this way? and he said, look, you're from oklahoma, you're one tornado away from being joplin, missouri. so i was secretary of state here in the oklahoma city bombing . i believe, you know, when you have a disaster, yes, you want to be prudent, and i fought my colleagues for trying to do that, and do it the right way. there are ways to do it. but you immediately help the people in the affected areas. and on the sandy vote, we had an offset vote, that's completely appropriate, but once that didn't make it, you want to go ahead and help the people that need help. and that's what've always done as americans and i feel very strongly about that. we got a lot of help here in the oklahoma city bombing in '95 or '99, so when things like katrina happen or things like sandy, since i've been in congress, i figure it's kind of payback time for us.

>> congressman tom cole , a pleasure. our thoughts with the people here in moore.

>> appreciate it very much.

>> thank you for joining us.