The Norman Transcript

Local news

May 25, 2013

Sharing stories of survival

MOORE — As Monday’s EF-5 tornado moved closer to Plaza Towers Elementary School, teacher Justin Ayers knew they were in its path.

Ayers said all of the teachers at the site likely knew what was coming from television reports and they had been communicating by various means. Part of the information shared was their locations, so that when it was over the teachers and students could be found.

“As the storm moved closer, it was obvious we were going to be hit,” said Ayers, a 5th grade social studies teacher at the school.

Ayers said the students in his area on the east side of the building, fourth, fifth and sixth graders were in a

hallway per tornado protocol. Some were in the bathroom. He made his way around the building several times and watched the 1.3-mile-wide twister approach.

“It was big. It was a very big,” Ayers said. “I could see the neighborhood to our west — gone. Cars were beginning to move from the parking lot towards us.”

His first thought was the cars could become airborne projectiles and strike the building. He didn’t know what the impact would be. Due to that threat, he re-entered the building a few minutes before the tornado struck and went into a restroom, the most central location, where they huddled as close together as they could. It’s not procedure to take cover in a bathroom, but as soon as the order was made the children responded.

At that time, the skylights were being sucked out of the building, Ayers said. The roof was peeling back.

n n n

Over at Briarwood Elementary, Principal Shelley McMillin said a lot of prayers were being said.

“We prayed a lot to God,” she said.

McMillin said she could hear grinding noises, walls being torn apart. She looked up and the ceiling was gone. She could see debris spinning in the tornado.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local news
  • N7 Sooners come together to serve Native American youth

    Whitney Wofford has faced some tough competition as a part of the Oklahoma tennis team. However, on Wednesday, Wofford may have taken on her biggest and most rewarding competition yet at the Sooners For N7 event at the Oklahoma football ...

    April 10, 2014 3 Photos

  • Norman High Speech and Debate Team wins state championship

    Briar White’s heart pounded in his chest as he clasped the hands of several classmates and Booker T. Washington High School was announced as the second-place finisher. White said he was elated to hear second place announced because he ...

    April 16, 2014

  • General fund continues to decline as expenses exceed anticipated revenues

    Norman’s expenses will again outstrip projected revenue in the current budget before the city council. The budget for the fiscal year that starts in July and ends June 30, 2015, projects $210,982,020 in total revenues and $213,436,778 in ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Norman students accepted to arts institute

    OKLAHOMA CITY — Forty-nine Norman high school students have been accepted to the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain, an arts academy hosted June 14-29 in southwestern Oklahoma. The Norman students were among 270 artists ...

    April 16, 2014

  • OU History of Science Department receives Sloan Foundation Grant

    The University of Oklahoma History of Science Department has received a $350,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in support of a project to build an innovative tool for collaborative research centered on the 100-year-old Isis ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Norman High, North named top schools in nation

    Norman High and Norman North have once again been identified as two of the most rigorous high schools in the state and nation. The Washington Post’s 2014 Most Challenging High Schools list, the first of annual national high school ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Oklahoma Water Survey data web portal to be demonstrated next week

    A new tool is available from the Oklahoma Water Survey, at the University of Oklahoma, for organizations in the state that collect and use water data. Oklahoma Water Survey Director Robert Puls will demonstrate Phase I of a new water data ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Norman teachers excited about professional development

    Norman Public Schools’ teachers are focused on students and want to take advantage of professional development, Beth Spears, director of Staff Development and Student Achievement, said was the overall response teachers had to a recent ...

    April 15, 2014

  • Social justice dialogue part of University of Oklahoma program

    The University of Oklahoma kicked off Justice Week with a public forum Monday titled “Luis Rodriguez: No en Vano.” Critically acclaimed author, Esmeralda Santiago discussed the “Transformative Power of Art,” while joining five panelists ...

    April 15, 2014

  • Storm scavengers now could face felony charges

    OKLAHOMA CITY— It wasn’t long after a devastating tornado hit Moore last year that scavengers were circling the wreckage. Already reeling, Moore residents had a new concern — fending off looters....

    April 15, 2014