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Principal of school that lost 7 kids: 'After the tornado, the crying stopped'

May 24, 2013 at 8:53 AM ET

In her first time back at the school since late Monday, Plaza Towers Elementary principal Amy Simpson recalled the moment the deadly tornado took aim at the school.

“I got on the intercom and said, ‘It's here,’’’ Simpson told NBC's Kate Snow. “At first, it's just a rattling, but then all of a sudden, bigger things. (I) could hear the air duct crash down and a pipe, and I could hear the other four ladies in there. And that's when I started to yell.

"Just: 'In God's name, go away. Go away.' And I yelled it four or five times. And then it was gone.”

The chatter of frightened children could be heard in the aftermath, but it was eerily silent in the third-grade building. Teacher Jennifer Doan and her students were trapped, with Doan draped over two small boys and a wall resting on top of all of them. Doan suffered a fractured spine and sternum and several lacerations, but she survived.

Seven Plaza Towers students, all 8 or 9 years old, perished.

“(Doan) was hearing crying and crying and crying and then after the tornado, the crying stopped,’’ Simpson said. “What she said was 'The crying was horrible, but when it stopped, it was worse.'"

A memorial service for one of the children took place on Thursday, and more are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Snow's full interview will air on "Rock Center with Brian Williams" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

Pre-kindergarten teacher Linda Patterson and aide Kaye Johnson wrapped their arms around students as the EF-4 tornado with winds of up to 200 miles per hour ripped through the school. A car in the parking lot lifted up by the tornado landed on top of debris that was covering the two teachers, who were shielding several children with their bodies.

“I wasn’t feeling any of it,’’ Patterson told Snow. “My feelings were for those kids underneath me, and I could tell they were okay. I could feel they were okay.”

The wall protected her from the car's force.

“I don't think any of the weight of the car was on me, because the wall was on top of me and it was bracing the car from me,’’ she said. “It was on top of the debris that was on top of me. There were several layers of different materials on top of me.”

Kindergarten teacher Erin Baxter described her emotional state. “When I stop moving and I sit down it just comes back,’’ Baxter said. “So keeping myself busy has been the best thing for me. But speaking for myself, I know I'm probably still in shock.

“I haven't really slept. It's still hard.”

Watch Kate Snow's full interview on "Rock Center with Brian Williams" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

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