TODAY   |  May 22, 2013

She lost spouse in tornado as house ‘disappeared’

Victims of the tornado that struck Moore, Okla., on Monday afternoon share their stories of survival and loss with TODAY’s Matt Lauer.

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

>> some time in one of the local hospitals that is treating the victims of this storm. their stories were emotional and heartbreaking.

>> i heard all the noise, the rumbling, stuff starting to hit the building.

>> reporter: fred was at work at his liquor store when the tornado came barreling down, overhead, with winds close to 200 miles per hour.

>> the rumbling was growing louder, the stuff hitting the building was growing louder.

>> reporter: desperate to find shelter, he considered running to the 7-eleven next door. instead, he ran to his store's bathroom.

>> i kind of look up from the floor, and i saw the roof being pulled away. i just dove under the sink and felt something fall on my back, maybe the, you know, stuff fell on my legs, stuff was pinning my feet. and then i felt the sink finally fall and it hit my head and hit my shoulder.

>> what was going through your mind at that point?

>> that -- that that might be it. that's how they're going to find me, like that.

>> reporter: he says it lasted just 30 seconds. the image you see is what remains of his store and the 7-eleven next door, where he almost ran, and where several people died inside. his split-second decision saved his life.

>> trying to move, i was trying to pull my leg out, trying to move my arm, trying to do something to get the sink off me. i got my right arm free and i was trying to push on things, but everything was way too heavy.

>> reporter: buried in debris, he called 911.

>> i heard somebody calling out, hey, is anybody there. i struck my hand through the little hole i made and kind of waved my fingers, i'm over here, and they came up and he was like, where you at, buddy. and i was like, you're right on top of me.

>> reporter: his wife, julie, was at home, out of the tornado's path, trying to reach her husband.

>> i texted him, and i said, where are you at? and he said, i'm at the liquor store . and then i'm like, okay, so i was okay, and then until i got the next text, i said, well, it was there, it's gone now.

>> reporter: he suffered broken bones in his back and fractured ribs.

>> i consider myself pretty lucky, since it only hurts when i laugh or try to move, i've got to be lucky.

>> hi, jerry. how are you? i'm matt lauer .

>> i'm fine.

>> how you are you feeling?

>> much better.

>> reporter: gerry bhonde also fled the tornado. she and her husband, hermant, clinging to each other as the tornado struck.

>> my husband and i went into the middle shower, it's like a bathroom with no windows or anything, and we were just totally -- the house totally disappeared.

>> so you were in the shower, standing, and your husband was right next to you?

>> uh-huh.

>> and what do you remember about the tornado actually hitting?

>> walls were hitting me, i was knocked on the floor. i looked around for my husband, i couldn't find him.

>> reporter: gerry was rushed to the hospital. she suffered minor cuts. lucky to be alive, but desperate to find her husband, who when we spoke was still missing.

>> i want to see if they can find them and they're finding people every hour, almost.

>> reporter: gerry 's daughter, geeta, was by her side at the hospital, calling neighbors, the hospital, the red cross , looking for her dad.

>> probably the greatest guy you'll ever meet. funny, silly, give you the shirt off his back. it's really hard to think that we don't know where he is and he might be alone and doesn't know how to get ahold of us.

>> reporter: just hours later, this family got news they couldn't bear to hear. gerry bhonde, so lucky to be alive, yet facing a terrible loss. her husband, hermant, a victim of this tornado. and we want to express our sincere condolences to the bhonde family on the less of hermant bhonde.