OC alumni discuss faith after tornadoes

Presley Robbins and Kala Leger sift through debris in what once was Leger's bedroom, looking for handwritten Bible lessons. Leger and her husband, Jason, hosted weekly devotionals at their house. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)
Presley Robbins and Kala Leger sift through debris in what once was Leger's bedroom, looking for handwritten Bible lessons. Leger and her husband, Jason, hosted weekly devotionals at their house. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

The Christian Chronicle featured OC alumni Joe Crawford, Jason Leger, and Jennifer and Colby Simonds in a story by Erik Tryggestad about the May 20 tornado.

Leger's house was destroyed while Jennifer Simonds was injured protecting children at Plaza Towers Elementary School. Crawford, who lost his house in a 2011 tornado, helped organize relief efforts for this year's victims.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

“Why did this happen? Why an elementary school? Why little kids?”

Jennifer Simonds flutters between anger and thankfulness as she grapples with those questions.

God “kept me alive and kept my kids alive,” says the 26-year-old kindergarten teacher, who attends the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City with her husband, Colby. The couple met as students at Oklahoma Christian University, next to the church.

The May 20 storm attained EF5 status, cutting a swath of destruction more than a mile wide, as it moved from Newcastle to Moore, where Jennifer Simonds teaches at Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Parents had picked up all but six of the 22 students she teaches during afternoon kindergarten. She made sure the remaining students were in the “duck and cover” position. As the storm got closer, one of the girls asked her if a train had come in the building.

Jennifer Simonds remembers the lights flickering, the sound of breaking glass, the taste of dirt in her mouth as she yelled “we’re going to be fine!”

“I kept praying ... that if anything was to happen, it would happen to me,” she says. “When it was all over ... I sat up on my knees and realized that, on my back, was an upside-down SUV.”

Rescuers pulled the sport utility vehicle away from the teacher and her students. Paramedics took them to a hospital in nearby Norman. They all survived but later learned that seven third-graders, ages 8 and 9, had perished when a wall collapsed on them.

Colby Simonds raced from his work and walked through block after block of debris to reach the school, only to learn that his wife was at the hospital. The couple reunited about five hours after the storm.

Remembering the devastation he saw, “I don’t know how anybody walked away from that,” Colby Simonds says.

Click here to read the full article.

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