The Norman Transcript

News Features

May 26, 2013

Couple’s rescue immortalized in pictures

NORMAN — MOORE - When the tornado hit the Cleveland County community on Monday, Dennis and Wilma Chastain were holding hands.

The Chastains, who will celebrate 57 years of marriage in August, did not expect photos of their rescue from the rubble to be on the front page of The Transcript Tuesday and splattered across the nation via news outlets and the Internet.

“We had gone to our doctor’s office,” Dennis said Saturday. “I had just checked the weather.”

The couple left their home in south Oklahoma City in Green Briar Estates near Westmoore High School around 2 p.m. to make a 2:30 appointment near Moore Medical Center.

Shortly after their arrival at the clinic, a woman asked everyone to move inside the exam rooms, away from the windows. People huddled down and staff passed out pillows to cover their heads.

The couple sat on the floor, holding hands.

“It was very scary to me — just the idea,” Wilma said. “You’ve seen the aftermath so many times.”

Dennis wasn’t concerned at first. In 78 years of living in Oklahoma, he’s never seen a tornado.

The sound came first, like a loud wind.

“I saw the roof lift up and fly away,” he said. “And then the wall fell in.”

At that time, Wilma’s world went black.

“Something fell on my shoulder,” she said. “There was no air, and someone said breathe. I thought, ‘am I breathing?’ I couldn’t move.”

Wilma felt like she was sucking air through a straw.

Dennis said the air was thick with dirt that filled their ears and covered their clothing.

The couple were pulled apart when the tornado hit, but Wilma could hear people talking.

A first respnder helped Dennis get the chair off his lower body, and he was able to crawl out of the rubble. He was walking, dazed and confused, blood dripping down the side of his head when Transcript photographer Kyle Phillips captured the photo that appeared on the paper’s front page.

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