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May 20, 2014

Couple mourns loss of young lives

(Continued)

NORMAN —

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

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

A first responder helped Dennis get the chair off his lower body, and he crawled out of the rubble.

Wilma was buried, trying to breathe. A fireman kept talking to her, trying to get to her. Excruciating pain radiated from her arm and shoulder and she couldn’t move.

“I’m going to dig you out of there,” Wilma heard the fireman say.

The fireman found her and slowly pulled her out.

“He was very gentle,” she said. “He was very careful not to make it worse.”

Someone found Wilma’s purse and returned it, but she believes her cane is still buried under the rubble. The photo of Wilma’s rescue has become one of the tornado’s iconic images.

Now, a year later, Dennis said more information has come to light.

“When we went to the doctor, our PA (physician’s assistant) told us it was two hours before they pulled us out,” Dennis said.

The couple had thought it was only 20 or 30 minutes.

They were told that the tornado picked everyone up and threw them around and actually took a rug off the floor of the doctor’s office.

“We didn’t realize that,” he said. “She said we were actually in the air for a while.”

Wilma’s injury was due to being pinned down by heavy debris.

“I was underneath a wall and a credenza, and I was pinned down so tight, I couldn’t move,” she said.

The couple also experienced coughing for a long time after the tornado because of breathing in debris.

“We found out some stuff that we had never known,” Dennis said. “The after-effects were very significant. Apparently, people came up with tornado lung.”

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