The school's wall collapsed onto Jennifer Doan Rogers as she desperately tried to protect her third-grade students as a tornado ripped through their Oklahoma City suburb on May 20. The young teacher had laid one of her hands on Nicolas McCabe, a 9-year-old with an infectious grin. But it wasn't enough to protect him. The monstrous tornado leveled part of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, killing six of her students—including Nicolas; 24 people died in total. Rogers, who was eight weeks pregnant at the time, lay buried under the rubble with a broken back.
"He was actually the closest one to me, that I had my hand on, that didn't make it," she said. Seven months later, on Dec. 21, Rogers gave birth to a boy (having refused pain medication for her fractured spine and sternum for fear it would harm her baby). She named him Jack Nicolas. Scott McCabe, Nicolas' father, had this to say: "It's real hard. He was my only son. I mean I'm honored, yes, but she was the last one to touch Nicolas. I don't know how to put it, she was the last one to see my little boy. And it's still kind of hard." Rogers hopes to return to teaching next school year—at Plaza Towers, which is being rebuilt, this time with reinforced safe rooms that can withstand powerful storms.