The Norman Transcript

News Features

August 11, 2013

Teacher looks forward

NORMAN — Since May 20, Robin Dziedzic has been counting her blessings.

The fifth grade teacher at Briarwood Elementary School in Moore not only survived the EF-5 tornado that ravaged through the school, her two children Sam, 7, and Mari, 10, also were in the building.

Dziedzic was one of several teachers that huddled in a bathroom during the storm. Capturing the event on her cell phone, Dziedzic can be heard calming her students and telling them that the raging monster outside the walls of Briarwood was almost gone.

“We were just fortunate the school hadn’t been at capacity,” Dziedzic said.

Teaching at Briarwood since 2008, Dziedzic knew the proper procedures to take during a tornado. But that still hadn’t prepared her for the life altering events that Monday afternoon.

“I didn’t know what people listening to a weatherman knew. I knew to take cover. But it would have been more frightening to hear the specific weather report ‘If you are not underground you will perish’ and ‘It’s headed straight toward Briarwood.’ There were people at my school in the know and communicating to each building about that specific nature. But I did not hear that,” Dziedzic said. “One of the fifth grade teachers thought she was going to die before even going into the bathroom because it sounded really dire listening to the weather.”

Growing up in Kansas, Dziedzic is no stranger to tornadic activity. But still, that hadn’t made the events that unfolded on May 20 any easier to cope with.

“I just remember the entire time thinking, right up until the moment I cut loose with my scream, I was just, ‘keep them (students) calm.’ It kept escalating and escalating,” Dziedzic said. “I grew up in Kansas and there were times you wasted a little time in the cellar with grandma and grandpa and then you got out and drove across town to see the tree that had been upturned or a barn that had been knocked down. It wasn’t life or death. I’ve even been in homes where you’ve heard it go over your head. That had been my experience. I knew about ’99, I knew about Joplin, but until it happens to you, you just really don’t know.”

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