Teacher Jennifer Simonds Saves Lives Alumni Testimonials from Tornado Victims, Volunteers
Springtime in Oklahoma means bad weather and tornadoes. However, I never thought that I would be in the middle of one of those bad weather days.
On May 20 at 3:15 p.m., I was in a Plaza Towers Elementary School hallway with six of my students when an F-5 tornado ripped through our school.
Minutes before the tornado hit, we were in the hallway thinking it was just a drill. We didn’t know it was coming straight to us. We were rubbing students’ backs, singing songs and telling them we loved them.
Then, all of a sudden, glass started shattering and everyone was yelling, “Get down.” I placed the backpacks above my students on their heads and then used my body as a shield by laying over them.
As I was being hit with all kinds of debris, I just kept praying to God, that He would take me and not take my “babies.” We were in the duck-and-cover position for what seemed like forever.
When I was able to sit up, I realized there was an SUV turned upside down on top of us. At that point, I was on instinct and adrenaline, getting students unstuck and digging through the debris.
We made our way out of the building over a broken wall into the parking lot. I turned around to look at what we just walked out of; it broke my heart to see that our school was demolished.
There were very few walls standing. My classroom where I had taught the last two years was gone; nothing from my classroom was salvageable.
Standing outside the school, assessing my students, surveying the neighborhood and seeing the destruction, you have a difficult time finding the positive and being able to see good in what happened.
I realized I lost my school and was injured, and most of my students lost not just their school, but their homes. Some of them lost their lives. You sit there and think, “God, why did you let this happen?”
You become angry one second, but then you thank God that you walked away from that. It’s a hard and difficult thing to balance and it has made things extremely difficult for me. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster since that day.
It’s a day I will never forget and I hope it’s something I never experience again. I thank God every day for saving my life, my students’ lives and many of my co-workers’ lives. I know that I will heal from this and become a stronger person. It just takes one day at a time.
View more stories from the Fall 2013 issue of Vision magazine.