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Okla. funeral held for 'precious' 9-year-old who died with best friend

Shayla Taylor tells the story of being in active labor as her hospital room crumbles around her during the deadly Moore, Oklahoma tornado.

Antonia Candelaria, 9-years-old

A  nine-year-old girl killed by the Oklahoma tornado was mourned at a memorial service Thursday, with her family taking comfort in the belief that she was with her best friend when she died.

Antonia Candelaria is one of seven children who perished at the Plaza Towers elementary school in Moore, Okla. Her closest friend, fellow third-grader Emily Conatzer, was with her — a source of solace for her parents.

'I know Tonia and Emily were together and holding hands and taking care of each other," Antonia's mother said after learning of her daughter's death, according to Moore Schools Superintendent Susan Pierce.

Antonia's funeral was the first of three to be held in the next two days for children who died in Monday's storm, which claimed a total of 24 lives and damaged or destroyed 13,000 homes in the Oklahoma City suburb.

“She was a beautiful young lady on the inside and out,” said an obituary for Antonia published in The Oklahoman newspaper. “She had her own most special and beautiful way of looking at the world. She could find the positive, good and joy in everything.”

Tannen Maury / EPA

A monster tornado hit Moore, Okla., Monday afternoon, leaving at least 24 dead.

Nicknamed "Ladybug," she was “specially gifted in art as well as music” and “loved to draw, paint, color and make crafts,” the obituary said.

“We will miss our precious little Ladybug everyday but will rejoice for the day we will be reunited with her again someday," it added.

Authorities said Thursday they believe everyone who was missing after the twister has been tracked down and the death toll will stand at 24, including 10 children.

The victims include a mother who sought shelter in a 7-Eleven that collapsed, killing both her and her four-month-old son, and two sisters who were torn from their mother as she huddled with them in a bathtub.

Laurinda Vargyas, 30, told the Oklahoman that she was flopped around and when she landed, 4-year-old Karrina and 7-month-old Sydnee were gone.

She found the baby in a driveway, "just laying there helpless."

"All I could do was sit there and hold her. She was already gone. They say she didn't suffer. So I've got to find peace with that,” she told the newspaper.

Karrina's body was found later in the rubble of a neighbor's house. Varygas and her husband have two older children who were not harmed.

Beyond the human cost, the damage from Monday’s EF-5 tornado could top $2 billion, officials said late Wednesday as the focus shifted to huge task of clearing mile upon mile of of debris.

Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said Wednesday he would propose an ordinance in the next couple of days to require all new homes to have storm shelters.

NBC News' Tracy Connor and Kate Snow contributed to this report.

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