James Dickens, a gas-and-oil pipeline worker, grabbed his hard had and joined other rescuers at Plaza Towers Elementary School.
"I felt it was my duty to come help," he said Tuesday after a long night of searching.
"As a father, it's humbling. It's heartbreaking to know that we've still got kids over there that's possibly alive, but we don't know."
Moore, and the Oklahoma City region, are far too familiar with disaster. In 1995, 168 people died in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
In 1999 and then again in 2003, Moore took direct hits from tornadoes that took eerily similar paths to Monday's storm. The 1999 storm packed the strongest wind speeds in history, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said.
"We're a tough state. This is a tough community," Lamb said. "There is hope. We always have hope. We always have faith."
President Barack Obama, pledging whatever federal aid Oklahoma would need, praised teachers who protected their students.
"If there is hope to hold on to -- not just in Oklahoma but around the country -- it's the knowledge that the good people there and in Oklahoma are better prepared for this type of storm than most," he said. "And what they can be certain of is that Americans from every corner of this country will be right there with them, opening our homes, our hearts, to those in need, because we're a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes."
More trouble brewing
The storm system that spawned Monday's tornado and several other twisters Sunday isn't over yet.
Southwest Arkansas and northeast Texas, including Dallas, are under the gun for severe weather Tuesday. Those areas could see large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.
A broader swath of the United States, from Texas to Indiana and up to Michigan, could see severe thunderstorms.
"We could have a round 3," CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said. "Hopefully, it won't be as bad."