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    Oklahoma Tornado Victims Share Stories of Survival

    Oklahoma Tornado Victims Share Stories of Survivali
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    May 21, 2013 4:09 PM
    The deadly tornado that ripped through the midwestern state of Oklahoma on Monday left entire neighborhoods flattened, homes, businesses and schools destroyed. As emergency workers sift through the wreckage Tuesday, survivors are sharing their experiences. VOA's Jeff Custer has more.
    Jeff Custer
    The deadly tornado that ripped through the midwestern state of Oklahoma on Monday left entire neighborhoods flattened, homes, businesses and schools destroyed. As emergency workers sift through the wreckage Tuesday, survivors are sharing  their experiences.

    Among the countless buildings struck by the three-kilometer-wide tornado were two elementary schools - hit just as students were about to be released for the day.

    Sherry Biddle, a teacher at Briarwood Elementary School, described how she helped her students protect themselves.

    Deadliest U.S. Tornadoes Since 1900

    March 1925: 695 killed in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana
    April 1936: 216 killed in Tupelo, Missouri
    April 1939: 203 killed in Gainesville, Georgia
    April 1947: 181 killed in Woodward, Oklahoma
    May 2011: 158 killed in Joplin, Missouri
    April 1908: 143 killed in Louisiana and Mississippi
    June 1953: 116 killed in Flint, Michigan
    May 1953: 114 killed in Waco, Texas

    Source: NOAA
    "I had them take their backpacks and put them over their heads, just as another safety precaution, in the center of our room, in the center of our building," she said.

    Briarwood third-grade student Caden talked about what he experienced as the tornado passed.

    "I was on the ground, and I just, my ears just went WHOOO, and I couldn't hear anything except cracking and kids screaming," he said.
    Incredibly, all the students at Briarwood Elementary School have been accounted for. Another school, Plaza Towers, was not so lucky.

    Comparison of Tornado paths in Moore, Oklahoma - May 3, 1999 and May 20, 2013Comparison of Tornado paths in Moore, Oklahoma - May 3, 1999 and May 20, 2013
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    Comparison of Tornado paths in Moore, Oklahoma - May 3, 1999 and May 20, 2013
    Comparison of Tornado paths in Moore, Oklahoma - May 3, 1999 and May 20, 2013
    As of early Tuesday, police said seven students had died there and at least 24 were missing. In the chaos following the storm, rescuers and parents searched frantically for surviving children.

    One emotional parent was able to locate his child. "I'm just happy that I was able to find my son and that my family's okay," he said.

    Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said "hearts are broken'' for parents looking for their children. She deployed the state National Guard and extra police to assist with rescue operations.

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    • A man stands among the wreckage in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013
    • Storm chaser Brad Mack records the tornado in Oklahoma.
    • The storm system that generated an F-4 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma is pictured in this May 20, 2013 NASA photo.
    • John Warner surveys the damage near a friend's mobile home in the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park, destroyed in a tornado, near Shawnee, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
    • A fire burns in the Tower Plaza Addition following a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
    • Moore police dig through the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
    • This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows homes flattened outside Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
    • A tornado moves past homes in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
    • A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
    • Seven-year-old Katrina Ash holds a doll as she waits in the back of a truck with her grandfather, Michael Bowen, after a tornado ripped through their neighborhood near Dale, Oklahoma, May 19, 2013.

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