TODAY   |  May 21, 2013

Teacher reunited with boy she saved during tornado

Rhonda Crosswhite, a teacher at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., describes covering her students with her body to protect them from the tornado that devastated the school.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> crosswhite here sixth grade teacher at plaza towers. we heard your story this morning because we've already had a student talk about how you laid on top of several students to save them. can you tell me what happened yesterday?

>> well we just, we were in the halls and mr. ayers, a fifth grade teacher was like you go half, he was pushing me in the bathroom, i was in a stall with the kids and started coming down so i laid on top of them, one of my little boys kept saying i love you, i love you, please don't die with me, please don't die with me. we're okay and we made it out, when it finally stopped we got all the kids, there was a dad there, and him and i and one of my students antonio pulled everyone out. we were in the bathroom, pulled us out of the bathroom. everybody in our place was fine. we had one kid with a head cut but he was fine. all of my kids are accounted for.

>> can you even put into words what was going through your mind and how you were feeling in those moments where you're literally using your body to cover the children.

>> i never thought i was going to die. the whole time i just, i just kept screaming to them, quit worrying, we're fine, we're fine, we're fine, we're fine, and i'm very loud so i hoped they could hear me, because i could hear them screaming and the little girl that was under, she's in my home room and i just kept trying to, you know, she was sobbing and i was like aris, we're going to be fine. we're going to be fine, i'm protecting you and then i said a few prayers, god please take care of my kids and we're fine.

>> there were so many prayers going up in that moment. you lived through an incredibly powerful tornado. can you give us a sense of how it felt, how it sounded?

>> you know, i don't remember what it sounded like honestly. i just remember, it was like a freight train but i don't remember much about it and it felt like someone was beating me up from behind. the stuff was just coming down off, on my back. i thought i was -- i have cuts everywhere i didn't realize i had. i had flip flops on and i have cuts on my feet from the flip-flops but pretty irrelevant considering what could have happened.

>> before we came on this morning you were saying you were looking around saying i wish i could see my kids. i want to see the students, and i do have a student here who wants to say thank you to you. this is damian klein and his mom, brandi.

>> i told you you kids would be okay.

>> how's bobby?

>> he's here, too.

>> i want to bring you all in here, get a little group hug .

>> i didn't have him but he was under the seat and i got him out though.

>> he was scared.

>> damien, how does it feel to see this teacher? you told me earlier she saved your life.

>> good.

>> kind of scared. actually he's not one of my students, his brother is one of my students. he just happened to be in the bathroom with me.

>> brandi, what does it mean to you to see --

>> thank you so much. thank you to all the teachers that were out there with them.

>> i will tell you, we were, i mean mrs. simpson was on the p.a. to us until it literally hit. teachers do this, teachers do this. mr. ayers was running down the hall telling us, i mean we have the best faculty and staff that any school could ask for. i mean, they were amazing. i mean, there's nothing i can say that, protected us.

>> thank you to all of you for being here. how does it feel, pretty good? i know miss crossway was holding on tight, too. it's so good to have you. thank you for being one of the bright spots here this morning.

>> thank you. just doing our job.

>> we know you'll all stay together.