Okla. Tornado: Inside the Leveled School

Survivors recount terrifying minutes as twister hit

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 22, 2013 4:18 AM CDT | Updated May 22, 2013 6:17 AM CDT

(Newser) – As the massive tornado hit the Plaza Towers Elementary School, "it sounded like rivets being pulled out by a monster," a teacher's assistant tells the Wall Street Journal, recounting how she and some 10 other adults huddled and tried to protect as many children as they could during the minutes of terror. Seven children died as the tornado leveled the 500-student building at the end of the school day Monday.

When the twister hit, ripping the roof away and showering people with debris, "I couldn’t hear anything but people screaming and crying," an 11-year-old student who squeezed into a bathroom stall with six other girls tells the New York Times. "It felt like the school was just flying." Officials say emergency plans were carried out before the tornado hit, but the school was not required by law to have either an underground shelter or a reinforced safe room above ground. Around 100 schools in Oklahoma do have safe rooms paid for with federal funds, but funding has disappeared in recent years and many schools are still on the waiting list.

An aerial view shows the remains of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Amy Sharp, right, hugs daughter Jenna Dunn, 10, a day after she picked up her children from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., which was leveled by a tornado.   (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)
Workers continue going through the debris at the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.   (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Bryan Terry)
People react in front of the Towers Plaza Elementary school in Moore following a deadly tornado, Monday, May 20, 2013.   (Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman)
Rescue workers dig through the rubble at the Plaza Tower Elementary School to free trapped students in Moore, Okla., following a tornado Monday, May 20, 2013.   (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)
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It seemed like the tornado kept coming. It was like it would never go away. - Plaza Towers teacher's assistant Kelly Law

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