Islamic leader Saad Mohammad talks about surviving the May 20 tornado in Moore.

MOORE — “We survived.”

The words of hope and faith were spoken by a leader in the local Muslim community who saw his home fall to pieces around him.

In the aftermath of the deadly storm that struck his neighborhood Monday, Saad Mohammad, director of Islamic news and information for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said he and his family remain optimistic.

“We are still all together. We survived — we just have to start over,” he said.

Mohammad is one of the more visible members of the Oklahoma City area Muslim community, through his work with the Islamic Society and his post as board chairman of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter. He also has played a key role in the growing interfaith movement in the metro.

He said he rode out Monday’s storm by hunkering down in a bedroom closet with his family as the tornado pummeled its way through Moore. He said all he and his wife, Desiree, and their twin 16-year-old sons could do is listen as tornadic winds wreaked havoc.

Mohammad said tornadoes had touched down close to his home in previous years, but he somehow escaped the disaster they brought down upon the lives of others.

Mohammad said he thought Monday afternoon would be no different.

“A tornado has passed by me so many times, I just thought this time it would pass by again,” he said.

“When I heard the housing ripping apart and the windows breaking, I knew that it got me this time.”

Mohammad said he had driven home from his job with Hiland Dairy on Monday with the realization that another storm was brewing. He said he lives on a quiet street in the Westmoore housing addition and the afternoon was shaping up to be a typical one for tornado season in Tornado Alley.

With the familiar sight of a half light, half dark horizon, the Mohammads went to their bedroom closet and prepared to stay there until the storm passed.

In minutes, the tornado barreled through Moore.

“We could hear the debris hitting the house, and our neighbors’ house actually hit our house,” Saad Mohammad said.

He said the family was shocked by what they saw in the tornado’s aftermath.

Mohammad said the roof of their home had been torn off and the walls had caved in. All that withstood the storm was the closet where the family sought refuge and a bathroom. He said his car had been flung against a tree. “My car is a mess — it’s in pieces.”

And their neighborhood didn’t fare any better.

“Houses were missing — it looked like a war zone,” he said.

Mohammad, a Navy veteran, said he immediately walked to a nearby child care center where his grown son works to make sure his son was OK. He said he saw many neighbors trying to do the same thing.

Meanwhile, Adam Soltani, CAIR-Oklahoma City’s executive director, said the Islamic Society opened its mosque at 3815 N St. Clair for several days after the tornado as a donation site for tornado victims and as a place where people in the Muslim community could visit for come-and-go prayer.

“Saad has been such a leader in our community,” Soltani said. “We are hoping that we can put together packages to give to him and others affected by the storm.”