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May 20, 2014

Couple mourns loss of young lives

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NORMAN —

“For a while, I couldn’t control my fingers to write,” she said. “On most days, I can write legible enough to write a check. I’m OK with this. I think, with time, it will get better.”

The Chastains’ rescue was immortalized by Transcript photographer Kyle Phillips. They did not expect photos of their rescue from the rubble to be on the front page of The Transcript on May 21 — the day after the tornado — and eventually splattered across the nation via news outlets and the Internet.

Dennis was rescued first. He was walking, dazed and confused, blood dripping down the side of his head, when Phillips captured the photo that appeared on the paper’s front page. Later, when a fireman lifted Wilma out of the rubble, Phillips was there to shoot her photo, too, not knowing he had also photographed Wilma’s husband.

“We had gone to our doctor’s office,” Dennis said, recounting their story days after the event. “I had just checked the weather.”

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.

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.

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