PoliticsNation, Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Read the transcript from the Tuesday show
May 21, 2013
Guests: Mick Cornett; Chris Combs; Harold Brooks, Max Moss, Sheryl Stoepker, Rob Standridge, Chris McBee, Kate Dischino
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Chris. I`m live tonight from Atlanta.
Continuing our breaking news coverage on the tornado disaster in Oklahoma.
Officials today said at least 24 people are dead, including 9
children. Last night officials said 51 died, but they revised that today.
More than 200 people were injured.
Most from the town of Moore, just south of Oklahoma City. The fire
chief says he`s 98 percent sure there`s no more survivors. All bodies left
to be found in the town, including at Plaza Towers Elementary School where
seven of the nine children were found.
Late today, we learned the name of the first victim of this story.
Nine-year-old Ja`Nae Hornsby who was found at Plaza Towers. Our prayers go
to her family and all the grieving families, the victims of this terrible
The governor talked about the school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARY FALLIN, OKLAHOMA: Our hearts and prayers are certainly with
those that have lost their loved ones. It has been a very, very hard
experience, a heartbreaking experience. Especially the loss of children in
the schools themselves. It was very surreal coming upon the school because
there was no school. There was just debris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: President Obama declared a federal disaster area and
promised victims will get help on the path to recovery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You will not travel
that path alone. Your country will travel with you, fueled by our faith in
the almighty and our faith in one another. So our prayers are with the
people of Oklahoma today, and we will back up those prayers with deeds for
as long as it takes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: New NASA video taken from space shows the massive tornado
system as it spawned on Monday. The national weather service now says it
was the most powerful level of tornado, an Ef-5, with winds more than 200
miles per hour as the storm cut a 17-mile path through Oklahoma.
Joining me now live from Moore, Oklahoma, is the weather channel`s
Mike, good evening and thank you for being on.
MIKE BETTES, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: Yes, Rev., good evening to you.
You know, just imagine some of the horror these residents went through.
And you had to be in one of these. A concrete, reinforced, underground
storm shelter to survive this. And that`s exactly what some of the
residents did. And then you emerge after the tornado. And you see this.
You know, your neighborhood is just wrecked.
This is what happened. And we actually talked to a gentleman, a guy
that actually lives next door to the folks. These are his neighbors that
have this storm shelter. This is where he lives. He was outside. He was
trying to get a view of the tornado himself. He loves weather. He loves
tornadoes. Doesn`t have a storm shelter himself. This is his bedroom
BETTES: This is where he would have gone to bed last night.
Absolutely amazing. He takes shelter right there in his bathroom that
doesn`t even exist anymore. The tub is off in that debris. He started
throwing a mattress on himself and gone in there, he would have had no
chance. So he took a left turn, went right in that store shelter, Al. And
I got to tell you it was the right choice because if he hadn`t done that
God knows what would have happened to him. So many people in this area now
trying to recover.
SHARPTON: When the tornado was approaching, people were going to the
storm shelters. Some of them reluctantly. And then they`d come out and
everything they had and saw when they went in is just gone.
BETTES: Yes. It`s gone. I mean, every worldly possession that they
have, you know, is gone. The gentleman that we talked to that lives right
here, his name`s sky. I mean, he can`t savage a single thing from his
home, truly. And neither can his neighbors.
Imagine that, Al. How your life just changes truly in a matter of
seconds. You run from your house. You hop in a cellar. You shut the
door. It`s a roar of a train overhead. It lasts for a few seconds. You
open the door, you come out and your world has change. I mean, I don`t
know if any of us can put ourselves in those shoes, but they have done that
SHARPTON: Now, Mike, walk to the cellar because I want to see the
distance from these homes to the cellar, then as they come back out. And
as you walk, how much warning, how much time did they have before it was go
in the cellar or it`s going to be too late? What kind of time period are
BETTES: Well, they had a decent warning on this. About 16 minutes
before it came. But, you know, people here, they kind of want to look at
it themselves. They are so used to tornadoes, they want to go outside,
they want to take a look. The gentleman we talked to said he maybe had a
minute or so to get in the cellar because he finally realized it was way
Hopped in here. Came all the way back in here. He then shuts the
door, pulls the chain shut with this chain. In there truly for seconds.
Hops back out. It`s about a 30-foot run to get in there. But, I can only
imagine, Al, that may have been the most terrifying 30-feet of his life.
Could you imagine?
SHARPTON: Now, they run in the shelter. They hear it go overhead.
And I don`t think people around the country understand the tremendous
impact because it`s almost right upon them before they can realize how
strong and wide this is.
BETTES: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you don`t really comprehend because
sometimes it`s just too dark, maybe there`s too much debris. You don`t
really know how big the storm is until you feel it. Your years will pop
because the pressure is really low. The door will shake. And not a lot of
instances with these shelters, the door will be ripped off. And that`s why
they put chains on them like this to keep the door in place so the people
inside don`t actually get sucked out by the tornado. Because it has a lot
of upward motion in the tornado. And then, you`ve got a lot of debris
that`s flying around. The pure wind speed and debris hitting homes like
this, you would have had very little chance to survive if you were actually
in the home. You`d have had to have been underground down there a good six
SHARPTON: I mean, this is utterly amazing. The people you spoke with
today that survived, what are they saying to you was their reaction? Was
it shock? I mean, how did they feel when this was going on? Because, as
you said, they had lived through other tornadoes. This clearly was
something that they would never experienced.
BETTES: Well, I think, two things. I think shock for one, because
you just don`t think it`s going to happen to you. And then, I think once
they realized that they are OK and they survived, I think there as a peace.
They are at peace then. And they he perspective. They say, well, you know
what, it`s just a home. It`s just a car. I can get a new one but I can`t
And so, I think you put their lives in perspective and maybe allow
them to appreciate life a little bit more in that instant than they ever
SHARPTON: I hope it makes all of us look at life in a different
perspective, because it could be any of us.
Mike Bettes, thank you so much for your time this evening.
BETTES: You bet.
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett.
Mayor Cornett, thanks for coming on the show tonight.
MAYOR MICK CORNETT, OKLAHOMA CITY: Good to be with you, Al. Just wish
it was under different circumstances.
SHARPTON: And so do I. And we certainly, all of us, have our prayers
for you and all of your constituents there.
CORNETT: Thank you.
SHARPTON: What can you tell us about the recovery right now just 24
CORNETT: Well, it`s a very awe inspiring situation here. I was able
to tour the site this morning and then flew over it in a helicopter to get
look at it from the air. I can`t explain to you just how devastating
ground zero is. It`s amazing that anyone walked out of that alive. Piles
of debris four feet high as far as you can see in any direction, children`s
toys, mattresses, cars standing on end, trees with the bark torn off of
CORNETT: And yet, people survived over and over again. There is
tremendous stories of courage out there. And I want to thank the media for
that advanced warning. That technology is wonderful, and it saved hundreds
of lives in Oklahoma City.
SHARPTON: Are you getting all the help you need so far?
CORNETT: Well, I suppose we are. You know, I think you can`t just
snap your fingers and put people`s lives back together. And certainly, you
can`t put a blanket statement that addresses all of the individual needs.
Some people lost their kids. Some people lost their parents. Some people
lost brothers and sisters. And their needs are more direct than a lot of
But I think, you know, the federal help is most likely here. I think
from the financial side, eventually we will be able to pull this together.
But you`re talking about a lot of shattered lives here. The next few days
are going to be heartwarming to say the least.
SHARPTON: How has the community pulled together in the wake of this
CORNETT: Well, you have thousands of people wanting to help. And we
are directing, you know, their attention to the Red Cross and asking for
cash donations and any other items that they think the displaced people
Most people here are, you know, having to move in with friends if they
have been affected or displaced and lost their housing. And, of course,
you know, later this week, I think the toughest part, when the funerals
start. And we start to bury those kids that we lost in that grade school.
I think that`s when it`s really going to hit home. I think we are -- in a
little bit, we are processing it right now. But the toughest part is yet
to come. It`s going to be a long week in Oklahoma City.
SHARPTON: Wow. And certainly, our prayers will certainly be with
you. One note is, I`m sure you were glad as others were, Kevin Durant
who`s from Oklahoma City has donated a million dollars to the Red Cross for
this. I`m sure that was a pleasant surprise amidst all this pain and
problems you are facing.
CORNETT: Yes. Kevin really stepped up. He exceeds our expectations
over and over again.
SHARPTON: Oklahoma City mayor, Mick Cornett. Thank you so much for
your time this evening, and God bless you.
CORNETT: Thank you, Al.
SHARPTON: Tonight, so many people around the country are talking
about the teachers and students at Plaza Towers elementary school. There`s
so many heartbreaking stories and stories of courage. Some teachers
literally covered the children with their own bodies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RHONDA CROSSWHITE, TEACHER WHO SAVED STUDENTS: I was in a hall with
some kids and it started coming down. So, I laid on top of them. One of
my little boys just kept saying I love you, I love you, please don`t die
with me, please don`t die with me. I never thought I was going to die.
The whole time I just kept screaming to them, quit worrying, we are fine,
we are fine, we are fine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: I do have a student here who wants to
say thank you to you.
This is Jamie and his mom, Brandy.
CROSSWHITE: I told you we were going to be OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Dramatic AP photos show children being pulled alive from
the rubble. Rescued in those desperate moments after the tornado hit.
These before and after photos show the extent of the damage. The school
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE STUDENT: I had to walk over (INAUDIBLE) of, like,
desks and everything. And it was pretty scary. Everybody was rushing
everybody. Then I came out and I saw the cars and I saw the houses and I
just started crying so hard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are never, ever going to go through this
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE STUDENT: We had to sit like this. And the
tornado started knocking on the ceilings, go up and down. And a light went
down and it hit me in the head. And all the other girls were screaming.
And they were crying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: At nearby Briarwood elementary school, emotional scenes.
Teachers saving students and parents reunited with their children.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
SHARPTON: Neither school had a so-called safe room. Specifically
designed to protect from this kind of weather disaster.
Joining me now on the phone is Chris Combs, school secretary for Briar
Chris, what can you tell me about how the kids are doing now?
CHRIS COMBS, BRIARWOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SECRETARY (via phone): Well,
from the ones that I actually know of, I guess we are all OK. We are in
shock and shook up and stressed and mentally upset. But those of us that
are alive, we are doing OK and trying to pick up the pieces one little
second at a time.
SHARPTON: Now, we understand all of the students, at least that we
know, have survived at Briarwood. What kind of warning did you have? How
much time did you have to prepare for this?
COMBS: Well, we, you know, had heard all day that, you know, it was a
possibility. But it was about 1:30 before we started really hearing
warnings from parents calling and we had our ipads on with the local news
and weather. And we lost power about 30 minutes before the storm actually
hit. And weren`t really sure, but we definitely heard it coming. And we
were allowing people in up to the last second to take cover. Parents and
their animals and anybody off the street. And we finally within seconds
when we heard the roar, we had to take cover ourselves. And all we could
do was pray. We, you know, kids were screaming and crying and adults were
praying. But we never thought for a second, you know, that we weren`t
going to make it through it. We just -- we had to have faith.
SHARPTON: The children were crying and some were praying out loud,
you say, which I can imagine is a scene that is unbelievable. But you say
you never gave up hope you would make it through.
COMBS: No. Actually, it was -- it was a strange thing. The roof was
being, you know, ripped apart. We could hear the power of the storm. It
was just like people say it was, you know, like a freight train coming
through, but it was shredding the building. The ceiling and tiles were
falling, debris on us. But when we walked out it was an odd feeling, like
maybe it only happened to the school. But when we walked out, we noticed
that everything was gone. And that`s when the complete shock set in.
That, you know, this was a truly devastating storm and we were very lucky
to have come out alive.
SHARPTON: So while it was happening, this freight train sound, with
you not knowing how widespread it was and how devastating it was, and then
you walk out and the town you know flattened and gone, I mean, I don`t know
how anyone could describe how that must have felt.
COMBS: No, you really can`t. And I live in a neighborhood blocks
from here by the school. And I wasn`t sure if my home was still standing
or not. It`s a definite panicked feeling as we lot to know. But still are
thankful that you are alive.
SHARPTON: Well, God bless all of you. It`s great testimony, though,
that you never gave up faith.
Chris Combs, school secretary for briarwood elementary. Thanks for
coming on the show tonight.
COMBS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: And God bless you and the whole community.
Ahead, it was the most powerful tornado tracked, 200-mile-per-hour
winds. So how did it happen? And will it happen again? And the stories
of hero teachers saving lives. They are emerging. We will be back with
our continuous coverage, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE STUDENT: We were all in cover. A teacher took
cover of us. Miss Crossway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Ms. Crossway actually, she threw her
body right over you, didn`t she?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE STUDENT: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Was she covering you and some other
UNIDENTIFIED MALE STUDENT: She was covering me and my friend,
Zachary. Then she -- I told her that we were fine because we were holding
on to something. And then she went over to my friend Antonio and covered
him. And then -- so she saved our lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Have you joined the "Politics Nation" conversation on
facebook yet? We hope you will.
Everyone on our facebook page has been showing their support for the
tornado victims in Oklahoma.
Nicole says, I am heartbroken. I donated. I wish I could do more.
Sharon says, our hearts and prayers go out to everyone in Moore,
especially the parents of children who lost their lives.
I couldn`t agree more.
To learn more about recovery efforts, please head over to facebook and
search "Politics Nation" and like us to join the conversation that keeps
going long after the show ends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to bail out because it was coming right at
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That debris, it`s 500 or 600 feet up in the air
and it`s going. Looks like it`s roping out a little bit. And if this is
over like 149th street and maybe just the east side of air depot road.
There it is. It`s going. I don`t know how to explain it, how to describe
it. This is terrible. This is war zone terrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was the news as it unfolded yesterday. And today we
are learning just how powerful the monster tornado was. The National
Weather Service says it reached the EF-5 level, the highest category for
tornadoes. It was on the ground for about 17 miles with a path up to 1.3
miles wide. Winds were around 200 miles per hour. Twenty-four people have
But Moore, Oklahoma, has faced this kind of devastation before. A
tornado on May 3rd, 1999, followed a similar path. Almost also ripping
through the town of Moore. Its winds traveled at more than 300 miles an
hour. The fastest speed ever recorded. It was one of the 74 twisters that
touched down in Oklahoma and Kansas, killing 46 people and causing more
than a billion in damage. So why did it happen again, and will these
monstrous tornadoes become more common?
Joining me now is research meteorologist Dr. Harold Brooks. He is
with the National Severe Storms lab in Norman, Oklahoma.
Thanks for joining us tonight, Dr. Brooks.
HAROLD BROOKS, NOAA SEVERE STORMS LAB: You are welcome. Thank you
for having me.
SHARPTON: Two powerful tornadoes in the same area. Why is this
BROOKS: Well, in many senses, the fact that they occurred in the same
exact location almost is a matter of bad luck. The fact that they occur in
this part of the United States is really because this is the part of the
planet where it`s almost a perfect laboratory for making violent tornadoes.
We get all the ingredients coming together more often here than any place
else on earth.
SHARPTON: So, I mean, bad luck notwithstanding there, it happened
almost the same place. Is there anything about Moore, Oklahoma, that would
make it more of this laboratory that you were saying?
BROOKS: Not especially. I mean, there`s no real features that allow
us to think that there`s anything particularly special about Moore. If you
would have actually asked that question 20 years ago, there would be other
places in the central part of the U.S. that you might have been asking the
exact same question about. They have been relatively quiet since then. So
it really does seem like it is just a matter of incredibly bad luck.
SHARPTON: Are these tornadoes themselves becoming more common?
BROOKS: Not that we can tell from the records. When we try to look
at the best quality records that we have, which is essentially looking at
the EF-1 and greater tornadoes over the last 60 years. We really don`t see
any long-term changes that are taking place.
And when we actually examine our physical understanding and use models
to understand how the environment`s been changing and will they change, our
expectations for how tornadoes will change as the planet continues to warm
are really unclear.
One of the main ingredients, the energy available for the storms, is
likely to become more favorable for tornadoes. But yet another one of the
ingredients, the change of the winds with height, which helps organize the
storms and makes them more likely to brew tornadoes is going to decrease in
the future. So we have got a balancing act and we really can`t tell how
it`s going to play out.
SHARPTON: Now, how have things changed in terms of forecasting since
BROOKS: Well, there have been a couple of really big things I think
that have occurred. One of them is illustrated by this case very well.
Back in 1999, the first time the possibility of severe thunderstorms
were mentioned in the forecast was the day before or maybe the day before
the day before. There was a possibility of severe thunderstorms happening
in this area.
In this case, actually last Wednesday. So five days before the
tornado occurred there were forecasts that mentioned the possibility of
severe weather outbreaks in the south central plains of the United States
on Monday. And by Friday, they were talking about the possibility of
strong tornadoes occurring in this region.
So we have had a -- we have been able to advance our ability to sort
of do the long range preparatory forecasting from just two to three days up
to six to seven days now. And on the warning scale, the time where we
start to put -- say this particular thunderstorm is either making a tornado
or is about to make a tornado, we -- this was a case where all of the
science we have and all of the short range numerical models that help us
prepare forecasters to make the best warning decisions they can were
indicating early in the morning that there was a likelihood of if a storm
formed in the Oklahoma city metropolitan area, that it was likely to
produce a strong to violent tornado. So when that storm formed,
forecasters were ready to make that kind of decision. There was no way we
could have done that 15 years ago.
SHARPTON: Well, Dr. Harold Brooks, thank you for your time tonight.
BROOKS: You are welcome. Have a good evening.
SHARPTON: The search and rescue mission has turned into search and
Let`s go to MSNBC`s Chris Jansing live in Moore, Oklahoma.
Chris, good evening.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Rev.
And really, the death toll that changed so dramatically downward to 24
is explained by the chaos and the confusion and the miscounting. Now,
officials do believe that they have accounted for everyone that`s missing.
But they are not ting any chances. And so, the governor pledged today that
these rescue teams that have been checking these buildings that have
collapsed, that are barely standing, they would go through them not once or
twice, but three times. Already in this neighborhood, they have put big
orange Xs for the first go-round. And signs in bright green for the second
We heard overnight, 101 people rescued. The influx of people not just
who were volunteering but were expert in rescue came into this community
and really made all the difference. And then those stories of heroism that
you were talking about, we just talked to the superintendent of schools
here in Oklahoma. And she called teachers her angels. And those two
schools where we heard about the teachers who were guarding their students
and truly saving their lives.
So, so many stories of heroism. And as horrible as it is here, as bad
as the devastation is, a lot of people are saying the fact that so many
people acted so heroically definitely saved lives, Rev.
SHARPTON: Let me ask about the survivors. What are they doing
tonight, the survivors whose homes have been destroyed?
JANSING: Well, a lot of them are out here, actually. It was pretty
miserable during the day. Rain was coming down heart. It was cold. But
more people are coming out. And they are sifting through the rubble. They
are looking for little pieces of their lives. And it`s not that easy to
do. Not just because -- and you can see the bricks that are piled up and
appliances and so on.
Two hundred, 210-mile-per-hour winds. Do you know how far that will
carry something? So, sometimes people are finding things in their yards
and they are looking at them and they are saying, this might mean something
to someone or these are photographs that I don`t recognize. And you can
understand how far things flew.
In fact, on the medical center roof across the street from me, Rev., I
think it`s five or six stories high, there is a car up there. We could see
it with some of the helicopter shots. So that`s what the folks are doing.
They are going, picking up the pieces, looking for what might be left. In
particular, anything that might be of sentimental value, of course.
SHARPTON: Wow. Chris Jansing, thank you so much.
JANSING: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Amidst so much tragedy, there are miraculous stories. A
baby born just as the tornado hit town. That story is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CHILD: It was coming. It was hitting. And
everybody said put your head down, put your head down! But some people got
hurt, but we made it alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to pull a car out of the front hallway off
a teacher. And she -- I don`t know what that lady`s name is, but she had
three little kids underneath her. Good job, teach. It ripped our house
up. I still got a little girl buried there. So, I got to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now by phone is Lieutenant Colonel Max Moss of
the Oklahoma national guard who`s been out all day as part of the search
and recovery mission. Lieutenant Colonel Moss, thanks for coming on the
MAX MOSS, OKLAHOMA NATIONAL GUARD: Thank you for having us.
SHARPTON: What can you tell us about what you saw today?
MOSS: Well, much like last night, the area is -- is devastated. Lots
of mud. Tons of debris. Broken glass. Metal. Very few structures that
are still standing. It`s still a dangerous situation. Even for the first
responders and the law enforcement officers working the area.
SHARPTON: Tell me how the guard soldiers are responding personally to
MOSS: Well, most guard soldiers joined the National Guard because
they want to defend our nation. But they also want to be available to
support our state in times of domestic emergencies like this one. So while
it`s a tough thing to do, they`re honored to do it. And they`re doing an
outstanding job supporting the civilian agencies on the ground.
SHARPTON: Now, you`ve undoubtedly seen a lot of tragic situations.
How does this compare in terms of the scope and the impact? How does this
compare to things that you and your colleagues have had to deal with in the
MOSS: Well, it`s tough. We were around the school shortly after the
tornado last night. And, you know, our soldiers and airmen are
professionals. They understand that the mission comes first. But they`re
human beings. And I`m sure a lot of what they saw will stick with them for
a long time.
SHARPTON: Well, we certainly thank you for your work. We`re going to
check back in with you. But thank you and thank all of your colleagues.
God bless you all. Lieutenant Colonel Max Moss of the Oklahoma National
Guard. Thanks for your time this evening.
MOSS: Thank you, sir.
SHARPTON: It began as a normal day at the Moore Medical Center in
Oklahoma yesterday. But the massive tornado had 30 patients and staffers
scrambling for their lives. They hunkered down in the cafeteria and the
designated zones in the center of the hospital. The medical center looked
like this yesterday morning. And like this after the monster twister`s
destructive path. Walls blown off. Debris thrown all over. Cars piled up
And a building reduced to rubble. But out of the rubble, we`re
hearing about some amazing stories emerging. Not one patient or staff
member was injured. Including a baby delivered just moments before impact.
Joining me now is Sheryl Stoepker. She`s hero nurse who delivered the
baby and brought the baby and mother to safety. With Sheryl is Oklahoma
State Senator Rob Standridge. Sheryl, let me go to you first. I mean,
this is an amazing story.
SHERYL STOEPKER, NURSE: Yes. It`s a miracle.
SHARPTON: It is a miracle. So, let me -- let me understand it. So
you delivered the baby, and then you get a tornado alert. What happens
STOEPKER: Yes. Our first alert warned us that there was a storm
brewing. So we knew to prepare. So we got wheelchairs put in our
patients` rooms and prepared to evacuate. You know, cell reception was a
little spotty. So it was sometimes hard to know what was coming or where
it was. And then we got this final alert that told us we needed to
evacuate, go downstairs to the first floor. And so that`s what we did.
SHARPTON: Where did you go next? To the first floor?
STOEPKER: Yes. There`s a cafeteria that`s in the middle of our
hospital on our first floor. And that is where we go when a tornado is
headed our way. We had a warning the day before and had done the same
thing. So we were very well prepared and knew what we needed to do to get
our patients to safety.
SHARPTON: What was it like when it hit?
STOEPKER: It`s unbelievable. It`s hard to describe. And I`m still
trying to deal with it and figure out what happened. It got -- it was
dark. That was the first thing that kind of told us that something was
happening. We could hear the hail hitting the building, even though we
were on the first floor and it`s a two-story floor. So we at that point
got down on the floor. My patient and myself, took her baby, put him in
our laps and we hugged and we started praying.
SHARPTON: The baby was in your patient`s -- the baby was in your
patient`s lap, had just been born, and in your patient`s lap, and you all
hugged and braced yourselves with the baby when it hit?
STOEPKER: Yep. Yep. We did. Baby was a little over an hour old.
Didn`t even have a diaper on yet at that point. But mom and I held the
baby and prayed. And made it through.
SHARPTON: The baby just an hour old. And you and the mother who had
just given birth, holding and praying as this storm hits.
SHARPTON: Geez. What happens with the baby after the tornado had
STOEPKER: Well, once it passed, you know, very dark. We couldn`t
see. Tried to start exiting the building. The front of the building had
completely collapsed, so we couldn`t go that way. Got my patient back in
the wheelchair. Started trying to push her through the debris and had
wonderful people in front of us trying to move everything out of the way.
Also had another patient that had delivered earlier that morning.
Her nurse is 33 weeks pregnant and with us. And pushing her patient
right along with us. Guys got the debris out of the way. We made it
probably halfway through the building and couldn`t go any farther with the
wheelchairs. There was just too much rubble and too much debris. So at
that point my patient got up and walked barefoot and we got out of the
SHARPTON: Senator -- State Senator Standridge, I mean, with all of
the rubble and all of the debris and all of people there traumatized, I
mean, this is an amazing story. A baby born, and this nurse being able to
bring the mother and baby through this an hour after birth. I mean, this
is an amazing story, Senator.
ST. SENATOR ROB STANDRIDGE (R), OKLAHOMA: Yes, it is, Reverend Al.
I`m here to, you know, support my friend and hero, Sheryl Stoepker. And
it`s amazing. You see all the health care providers, and the first
responders and all the people, jumping out here to volunteer. And it`s why
we love our state. But it`s amazing to see them come to everybody`s
Like you said and Sheryl said, the miracle of making it through that
sort of destruction is just awe inspiring, to be honest. And my heart
grieves for those that have lost loved ones and those that are still
uncertain. So as we trumpet those heroes out here, let`s keep that in
mind, keep those in our prayers. But we sure appreciate Sheryl and others
in that hospital to get everybody to safety and keep everybody cared for.
SHARPTON: Yes. Well, I agree, Sheryl is a hero. Sheryl and Oklahoma
State Senator Standridge, incredible story. Thank you for sharing it with
STOEPKER: Thank you.
STANDRIDGE: Thank you.
SHARPTON: What can you do to help? We`ll have that ahead in our
continuing coverage of the tornado tragedy in Oklahoma.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Americans from every corner of this country will be right
there with them, opening our homes, our hearts to those in need. Because
we`re a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes.
Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today, and we will back up
those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.
SHARPTON: The 17-mile path of destruction that this tornado left
behind is devastating. But it`s not surprising given the videos that have
emerged of this storm. Across Moore, Oklahoma, storm chasers captured
chilling video of the funnel as it tore through the community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Oh, my God.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is not good. Please, dear god, please keep
these people safe. Lots of debris in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Got a vortices on the side.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The whole roof just came off.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, we need to go, we need to go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Chris McBee, a storm chaser with the
central Oklahoma storm chasers. Chris, you saw the storm touchdown and
were just a half mile south of it. Tell me what you saw.
CHRIS MCBEE, CENTRAL OKLAHOMA STORM CHASERS: Well, we started on the
storm when it was a few miles west of Moore. It intensified very quickly,
got very large. Came right into Moore. We were, yes, a half mile south of
it. It was probably a mile wide. It was debris everywhere in the air.
And you can see what kind of destruction it caused. It was a -- it was a
terrible thing to see.
SHARPTON: Now, you`ve been storm chasing for ten years. How does
this storm compare to tornadoes that you`ve witnessed before?
MCBEE: This is above and beyond anything I`ve ever seen. This is
devastation on a level I`ve never experienced. This is much bigger than --
than anything that I`ve ever been near in my storm chasing career.
SHARPTON: I keep hearing people tell me tonight about it sounded like
a train. Or like a freight train. What was the sound like where you were?
MCBEE: I would characterize it as a very loud -- being next to a very
big waterfall. Just a deafening roar. That`s all you could hear, was just
the roar of this tornado as it -- as it approached our location. It was
SHARPTON: You know, this can be dangerous, what you do. How do you
know when to leave and take cover?
MCBEE: Well, we position ourselves in an area where we know that
tornado is not directly heading for. We got ourselves in a position where
we could be, you know, less than a mile away. We were flagging people that
were driving out near the funnel. We were trying to get them out of harm`s
way. But we have the equipment to do so and do so safely.
SHARPTON: After the storm, you helped with the search and recovery.
Tell us what you saw.
MCBEE: Well, we were chasing in a 15-passenger van. So, we had a
large vehicle. We put out on social media that we had the space and the
means to get people out of there if we needed to. We showed up to the
triage unit right over here at the movie theater, and we discussed with
people what we could do. And we were able to transport several people out
of harm`s way who had lost their vehicles in the tornado. So we were able
to make a difference that day.
SHARPTON: Storm chaser Chris McBee, thank you so much for your time
MCBEE: Thank you for having me.
SHARPTON: We`ll be right back with how you can help the survivors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY WRITMORE, TORNADO VICTIM: I still have yet to find my F-150
pickup. And I don`t know where it`s at. I`m going to be OK. We`re going
to get back. We`re definitely OK soon. That`s what we`re known for.
We`ll come back arms a swinging.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: How can all help the people in Oklahoma? That`s next.
SHARPTON: Volunteer groups are already on the ground in Oklahoma
delivering food and comfort to the people whose lives were turned upside
down in less than a half hour yesterday.
Joining me now is Kate Dischino who is live from Moore, Oklahoma.
Emergency response manager for AmeriCares. A nonprofit disaster relief
organization that does important work in more than 90 countries. Kate,
thanks for being here tonight.
KATE DISCHINO, WWW.AMERICARES.ORG: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: What have you seen on the ground there so far?
DISCHINO: As you look around, it`s completely heart wrenching. It
looks as though cars were crunched like soda cans in your hand. And there
are responders and residents that are in the affected areas. And also
dispersed around the community who are working to pick up the pieces of
their lives right now.
SHARPTON: Well, what is the greatest lead that you`re seeing on the
ground right now?
DISCHINO: I think there`s a lot of needs. One of the needs that
AmeriCares is seeing is access to medication and access to medical supplies
that are needed to restore health. So, as you can imagine, residents are
displaced or injured, they need everything from tetanus vaccines so they
can come and safely clean up their homes as well as medicines for
individuals to have chronic care conditions like diabetes all the way down
through your basic supplies like water and hygiene supplies that you would
get at a drugstore.
SHARPTON: How are you working with other relief organizations that
are there in Moore?
DISCHINO: AmeriCares has a vast partner network of health centers as
well as voluntary partners and social service agencies. We`re working with
local clinics to make sure that they have the medicine they need to treat
disaster survivors. And we`re also providing two truckloads of water and
more supplies to the regional food bank who is considering continuing to
provide important items like water due to water shortages and also
interruptions in the water system.
SHARPTON: Now, people listening to you right now, what is it that you
most need them to do?
DISCHINO: The best thing that you can do to help is provide a cash
donation. AmeriCares can multiply your donations many, many times over.
We work with many pharmaceutical companies and other great organizations to
provide products at no cost to those who need it the most. So a cash
donation can be the best way that you can contribute.
SHARPTON: Kate Dischino, thank you for your time tonight.
DISCHINO: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Ahead, hero stories. And in the face of tragedy, the best
of America comes out again. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: We heard the tornado, and it sounded like a train
coming by. And then we all took -- we were all in cover. And a teacher
took cover of us, Ms. Crosswhite. She was covering me and my friend
Zachary. And then she -- I told her that we were fine because we were
holding on to something. And then she went over to my friend Antonio and
covered him. And then -- so she saved our lives.
RHONDA CROSSWHITE, TEACHER WHO SAVED STUDENTS: I was in a hall with
some kids and it just started coming down. So, I laid on top of them. One
of my little boys just said, he kept saying I love you, I love you. Please
don`t die with me, please don`t die with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We`ve seen how the teacher responded. And others that did
heroic acts. The nurse that delivered a baby, and an hour later helped to
save that baby and the mother. They`ve shown what they`re made of. Now,
let`s show what we`re made of. Let`s not just sympathize. Let`s help.
Let`s not just empathize. Let`s help.
Let`s show that we are in our own way realizing that it is our duty as
Americans to help Americans that face disasters that they had nothing to do
with, but that we have everything to do with helping them make it through.
It could be you. It could be me. It could be our child. Let`s help.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. Chris Jansing continues our
coverage of the Oklahoma tornado, next.
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