Heroism in Moore, Oklahoma Schools After Devastating Tornado

Workers continue to dig through the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary School after a tornado moved through Moore, Okla. , Monday, May 20, 2013. (Photo: AP)

No matter how terrible things may be, there are always those who act with extraordinary heroism in the face of unthinkable tragedy.

Amid the devastating tornado yesterday in Oklahoma, countless men and women stood strong against absolute hell, many risking their own lives to protect their families, friends, and neighbors.

One of the most tragic aspects was that two schools were in the path of the tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma.  Of the 24 killed, seven were children according to current estimates.

But that number could have been much higher if not for the children’s teachers, and those who rushed to the school at the first sign of danger.

ABC News interviewed two of the teachers from Briarwood Elementary, Sherri Bittle and Cindy Lowe, who may have saved dozens of lives with their quick thinking.  They rushed the children to the most secure areas of the school and asked them to hold their backpacks on top of their heads for any extra protection from the falling debris.  As the walls started caving in, Lowe said she used her body to try to protect as many children as she could.

The TODAY Show spoke with another teacher from Plaza Tower Elementary who tried to comfort the children while using her body as a human shield:

Sixth-grade teacher Rhonda Crosswhite never feared for her own life as she draped her body across six students inside a Plaza Towers Elementary School bathroom stall. Instead, she focused on providing what little comfort she could to the screaming and sobbing children beneath her.

“I never thought I was going to die. The whole time I just kept screaming to them, ‘Quit worrying, we’re fine, we’re fine, we’re fine,’” Crosswhite told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie Tuesday.

“One of my little boys just said, he just kept saying, ‘I love you, I love you, please don’t die with me, please don’t die with me,’” she said.

The teacher said she has a loud voice, but she feared she wouldn’t be heard over the storm and the screams of the students beneath her.

“’We’re going to be fine. I am protecting you,’” Crosswhite said she told one girl. “And then I said a few prayers. ‘God, please take care of my kids.’ And we’re fine.”  [Emphasis added]

One survivor told KOFR-TV that when he entered one of the schools, he found a mangled car in the middle of a hallway.  Underneath it was a teacher, with three little children beneath her.

“Good job, teach,” he said, unable to hold back the tears.

Second-grade Briarwood Elementary teacher Tammy Glasgow is another teacher who exhibited incredible bravery.  She said the whole morning the weather seemed “ominous,” and that she just had a “bad feeling.”

During the National Anthem, she said “you could just see” the tornado out the window.  At that moment, the alarm went off to seek shelter.

Heroism in Moore, Oklahoma Schools After Devastating Tornado

Teachers carry children away from Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. (Photo: AP)

Heroism in Moore, Oklahoma Schools After Devastating Tornado

A teacher hugs a child at Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. (Photo: AP)

CNN has the rest of the story:

She quickly hustled 12 girls into a girls’ bathroom. A worried father who’d already shown up to the school helped get boys into the boys’ bathroom. Another teacher, a counselor and three other kids got in a closet, Glasgow said.

“Before I shut the doors [to the boys' bathroom], I said, ‘I’m gonna shut these doors. I love you.’” The boys looked at me a little strange.”

Glasgow’s own son was in the bathroom. She looked at him for a moment.

“I just said, ‘Watch over them. Take care of them.’”

Then she told the girls she loved them.

“We love you back!” they chimed.

The twister was on top of them.

“It was so loud you couldn’t hear anything and it was forever and ever,” Glasgow said. “I just assumed that it would be quick but it stayed and stayed. Stuff was falling on us. We had books on our heads.”

She looked up and apparently through the roof and saw the tornado. “It was just brown, huge, never ending … all the way up to the heavens.”  [Emphasis added]

Those on the ground say the second it was possible to walk outside, crowds of people began the dangerous trek to the schools, mostly running on foot.  Many were parents, frantic about the safety of their children, but some who lived in the neighborhood explained that the second the air cleared, they thought of all the children trapped inside the school, and wanted to do whatever they could to help.

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