THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
May 21, 2013
Guests: Debbie Guidry, Sean Lauderdale, Shannon Largent, Nick Stremble, Glenn Lewis, Vicki Eichstaedt, Paul Hellstern
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The sun has just set on the day after here
in Moore, Oklahoma. Some people who survived yesterday`s tornado have
returned to this street where all of the homes have been destroyed and
they`ve been looking for something, anything that they can pick out of the
rubble that was once their homes.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS" HOST: Thank you for joining us on
this day two of the tragedy in Moore, Oklahoma, coming to a close.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the cover of the Oklahoman, "Worse Than
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a nation, our full
focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue.
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: We can now confirm, according to the medical
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The death toll has been corrected.
LAUER: Twenty-four fatalities have been confirmed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-four, including nine children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama has declared the region a major
OBAMA: FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: FEMA Director Craig Fugate is already in
OBAMA: -- is on his way to Oklahoma as we speak.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The devastation unlike anything people on the
ground have ever seen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For 40 minutes, it tore through block after
block of homes and businesses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The damage measured in miles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leveling everything in its path, including two
schools and a hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of tornadoes in Oklahoma but we
don`t have tornadoes like this.
OBAMA: Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today and we will
back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, rescue workers here in Moore, Oklahoma, continue
the work of searching for any signs of life from those who could still be
trapped after yesterday`s devastating tornado hit this community.
We now know the tornado was an EF-5, the strongest type on the scale,
with winds as high as 210 miles per hour. Officials have revised the
number of fatal victims of this tornado down to 24 people, including a
three-month-old baby and eight other children. Two hundred and thirty-
seven people are listed as injured.
Here is a look at new video of the tornado just as the tornado was
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: The path of the storm now officially stands at 17 miles
long. It was on the ground for 40 minutes with a base of 1.3 miles at its
As many as 20,000 families could be displaced.
Just a few hours ago, Oklahoma`s Governor Mary Fallin took an aerial
tour of the entire path.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARY FALLIN (R), OKLAHOMA: We started where -- we took an aerial
tour where it started to where it ended, flew over the schools, the
neighborhoods, the businesses that were hit so hard. It`s amazing that
anyone could survive that type of force and devastation with the tornado.
I`ve seen a lot of disasters in the state of Oklahoma, but I think this is
one of the very worst we`ve seen in our state`s history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`re also seeing new video like this one from Facebook
user Jason Ledger (ph) showing his neighborhood just before the tornado hit
and again as he emerged from his storm shelter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I`m joined now my MSNBC`s Chris Jansing who has been
reporting from Moore, Oklahoma, all day.
Chris, you got here about 24 hours ago.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes.
O`DONNELL: Take us through the news of today, especially involving
the change in the number of fatalities. It was a much higher number 24
JANSING: It was. And officials tried to correct it very quickly. I
mean, if you look behind you and see the devastation and multiply that by
17 miles, which is the length of this, as you said, a mile and a third
long, you realize this looks like a war zone. It`s actually being
described as the fog of war -- the chaos that often ensues after a disaster
There is so much effort put into finding people who may still be
trapped, recovering those who may have died, that sometimes in that
confusion, in the lists of people who are missing, things get misreported
and that`s what happened here.
O`DONNELL: There are -- I saw that path from the air today, there`s
some stunning areas of precision where really a house that`s just a few
feet away is completely OK and then the house here is totally devastated
and the house on the other side is completely OK, it`s just remarkable in
some areas how narrow this path became.
JANSING: Just at the end of the block, there`s a medical center
completely gone. You also see right next door to it where children were
playing at the time, there was a daycare center, all of that has been
ravaged. It`s going to have to come down.
But across the street, there`s a movie theater, people got messages on
the phone, saying bad weather coming. They all went out into the hallway.
O`DONNELL: They were in the theater during the event.
JANSING: They were in the theater watching movies. And everybody`s
phone started going off at the same time. And then they came and evacuated
them into the hallway. They heard it, it sounded terrible.
But then it passed and they thought maybe it wasn`t so bad and walked
out and everything around them was gone, including some bowling lanes right
across a parking lot.
O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, right across that parking lot from the movie
theater is this hospital center which has been completely devastated. It
is just across the street from where we`re standing now. That`s the kind
of weird precision we`re talking about.
Hospital totally wiped out, movie theater OK -- just a parking lot
JANSING: And I was showing you when you arrived, on the roof of that,
there were aerial shots that showed a car that was on top looks to me to be
a five to six story medical center. And talking to meteorologists, when
you were saying, when you`re talking 200, 210 miles per hour winds, those
are winds can move a car the length of a football field.
And so, there were people not just coming to these houses today,
people that parked at the medical center who worked there who were visiting
patients there, and who came to see what happened to their cars, and they
weren`t there. They`re somewhere but they couldn`t find them.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to be joined by Debbie Guidry, who is one of
the homeowners in this area.
Debbie, where was your house?
DEBBIE GUIDRY, HOME DESTROYED BY TORNADO: My house is right there.
O`DONNELL: Right there. That was your house.
GUIDRY: It sure was.
O`DONNELL: Did you lose cars also?
GUIDRY: They`re still in the garage, next door to each other.
O`DONNELL: The red one there and the silver one?
GUIDRY: Red one and silver.
O`DONNELL: Looks like they might pull out of there.
GUIDRY: May be all right. A motorcycle is on top.
O`DONNELL: Two houses down a little while ago, I saw a teenager who
refused to give up on his car that looked almost crushed. After an hour,
he backed it out with no windshield.
GUIDRY: Good for him.
O`DONNELL: And drove it away.
Now, you`re smiling about this. Is it that you feel that it call
could have been worse? You`re happy to be here?
GUIDRY: Absolutely. You know, I mentioned to one of my former
neighbors that came to look at the street, see what was, I said you know,
it is not the things that are in that structure that make the home, it is
the people that are in it, and we all survived. We had a storm shelter.
And so, we were in the storm shelter as the tornado came through.
O`DONNELL: And did you feel confident in the storm shelter the whole
O`DONNELL: It was that solid down there.
GUIDRY: Yes, yes.
O`DONNELL: And do you have friends who live around here who have been
through this kind of thing before?
GUIDRY: Yes. We actually lived in our home 31 years.
O`DONNELL: And has it been untouched by tornadoes in 31 years?
GUIDRY: They`ve been all around us. This is the first time we took
the hit. Several of us in the street, we all moved in when we were young,
we were just kind of growing old together, you know. It is our turn I
O`DONNELL: And because you have friends who have gone through it
before in previous tornadoes losing their homes, have you been talking it
through with them, have they told you here is the way it works, here is
what happens next, here is what FEMA does, here`s all of that stuff?
GUIDRY: Well, I have gotten a lot of advice, texts. May 3rd, `99, my
parents` home was involved. So, we have reference from that year, but lots
Everybody has been real informative. It is just kind of now they call
you and tell you what the next step is.
O`DONNELL: And where are you staying?
GUIDRY: My parents live in Moore, we`re with them. They don`t have
water or electricity, so like we`re camping out.
O`DONNELL: I just can`t get over your good cheer about this. I`m
kind of stunned by it. Did you -- have you been through grieving hours?
GUIDRY: There have been a couple times I looked at it, and felt just
a total loss.
But, you know, the most important thing was, my husband walked out and
I walked out behind him. And that`s most important.
O`DONNELL: How are you feeling about the task ahead? What do you --
do you think you`ll rebuild on this spot?
GUIDRY: We think we may. This is home.
O`DONNELL: And have you been able to talk to neighbors?
GUIDRY: We did. One neighbor, actually two neighbors were in the
storm shelter with us.
It is kind of an exciting story. We were in with the door locked and
secured and we heard noise. It has a steel plate on the top of it. So
even the smallest piece of hail sounds like it is a huge boulder. We
thought we were hearing hail. And it was the neighbor pulling on the door,
trying to get in.
So we unlatched the door, let him in. It wasn`t probably two minutes
until we heard the noise.
O`DONNELL: Chris Jansing, you have been on the street all day, is
this the spirit you have been encountering?
JANSING: It`s remarkable. We just saw a family almost all belongings
left were in three wagons, and they put a Harley, there was a little Harley
with a three-year-old on it, they had found the 3-year-old`s dog. They
were so elated by that, they said, look, this is everything that matters to
us, our family.
And it is a little stunning to see, but you really get the sense that
tornadoes are not a surprise to anyone here. You hope you`re going to
dodge a bullet, but if you don`t, it does seems like the community just
comes together. I have seen it a dozen times today, Lawrence. It`s
O`DONNELL: Debbie, why aren`t there more storm shelters here?
GUIDRY: Well, you mean as far as individuals having them?
O`DONNELL: For homes and also for the community?
GUIDRY: I think because it happens quite often you can get lulled
into a false sense of security.
O`DONNELL: The last one you survived.
GUIDRY: Yes, it was fine. It was over there, you know, it will be
Actually, the storm shelter we have was within the house when we
bought it. It was part of the home when we bought it. But several people
on this street have one.
But there`s a little sense of -- well, it`s not going to happen to me,
or I get enough forewarning, I`m going to outrun it, I`ll go someplace
O`DONNELL: I have seen a bunch of them today, they`re not cheap.
O`DONNELL: That steel door you were talking about is very serious
structure that you got to put in there. So, there could be a cost factor
GUIDRY: There was back in 1999, an incentive program they helped
people who wanted to put in storm shelters, the mayor said earlier today
when I was talking to him, Lawrence, he thinks that saved a lot of lives.
Some people took advantage of that.
He`d like to see that happen again, this time give people an
opportunity to defray some of those costs.
O`DONNELL: Debbie, what do you need right now? What`s the first
thing you would like to have?
GUIDRY: I`d like to have a shower.
GUIDRY: And after that, it`s really just talking to, you know, my
insurance folks and finding out what their direction is and the next step.
And we`ll just go from there.
O`DONNELL: Debbie, I just -- I`m so glad that you`re out here and
you`re smiling about this.
GUIDRY: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And I think we all share your sense of priorities.
Getting out alive was what mattered.
O`DONNELL: Debbie Guidry, thank you very much for talking with us.
We`re going to be right back here in Oklahoma. Just amazing.
O`DONNELL: This is the cover of "Time" magazine special edition. The
cover story gives a glimpse inside the National Weather Service forecast
center which isn`t far from here, in Norman, Oklahoma at the University of
Oklahoma. According to "Time", the actual warning that the center issued
16 minutes before the twister hit, included the rarely used term "tornado
emergency." That designation was created during the devastating May 3rd,
1999 storms that touched down in Chickasha, Oklahoma.
The point of the phrasing was to convey that this was something
different from what anyone in the area was likely to have experienced
Up next, more stories of survival from the people here in Moore,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As a nation, our full focus now is on the urgent work of
rescue and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today, the Moore, Oklahoma, fire chief provided this
update on the search and rescue effort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY BIRD, MOORE, OK, FIRE CHIEF: We will be through every damaged
piece of property in this city at least three times before we`re done, and
we hope to be done by dark tonight. No survivor has been found recently in
the last several hours, no sir.
REPORTER: Have any been found today?
BIRD: No, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`re joined by paramedic crew chief, Sean Lauderdale, who
aided the rescue effort.
Shawn, where were you when the tornado hit?
SEAN LAUDERDALE, MOORE, OK, PARAMEDIC CREW CHIEF: I was actually in
Norman. I was in my office earlier in the day and saw the storm coming.
So, I went to my house to evacuate with my wife and child.
O`DONNELL: Where is your house from your office?
LAUDERDALE: I`m located about six blocks south of the Briarwood
Elementary School. So, it`s about 10 miles from my office. So I drove
home, packed up my wife, my child, my pets, drove back to Norman to clear
the path of the storm.
O`DONNELL: So then what did you do after that?
LAUDERDALE: After I was quite certain that the tornado had crossed I-
35, I returned to my house, put on my uniform, couldn`t get anywhere --
O`DONNELL: Was your house OK?
LAUDERDALE: Had damage, minor damage, mostly roof, but put on my
uniform, then I walked the six blocks to the school.
O`DONNELL: Then what was the scene at the school?
LAUDERDALE: It was pretty chaotic, a lot of parents, lot of
responders, trying to figure out where I could fit in to help.
O`DONNELL: How did you help?
LAUDERDALE: Just helping coordinate getting people out of the school
and then at some point caught a ride with another agency ambulance up to
the Warren Theater to meet up with the crew.
O`DONNELL: And the scene at the school, you have parents who are
arriving, were they allowed into the school? Was there any restrictions on
LAUDERDALE: They weren`t up in the rubble but were all around it
obviously concerned, looking for their children.
O`DONNELL: And did you know some of the parents and families?
LAUDERDALE: I do. My children attended Briarwood.
O`DONNELL: So, were they saying, hey, Sean, asking you about names,
is my kid in there?
LAUDERDALE: It wasn`t necessarily that specific, but a lot of people
looking to me, asking if I knew where so and so was.
O`DONNELL: And when you got there, you had no idea what the situation
might be, how bad it might be in there. How long did it take you to
establish what the damage was and how many kids were going to be injured in
LAUDERDALE: Well, just right away I heard radio reports on the way
there and just right away from seeing the devastation, I knew that
potential for a lot of injured people.
O`DONNELL: And knowing that it is children that you`re going into, is
there a different mindset going into a scene where you`re going to try to
LAUDERDALE: It`s not really a different mindset. It`s just a job to
be done. Of course, there`s more emotional involvement because I have kids
myself, but just focusing on getting the job done.
O`DONNELL: What are you telling your own kids tonight about their own
LAUDERDALE: That, you know, I mean, as parents, we work hard to keep
them safe and just that they`re fortunate. They`re not, you know, a lot of
other people out there not as fortunate tonight.
O`DONNELL: When I see some of the kids that were in some of the worst
situations talking about what they went through, I`m left wondering how
kids here are going to feel safe going forward. What can you say to them?
This is such a random kind of event. You never know where it is going
to hit. It`s hard to prepare for.
LAUDERDALE: I agree. I think it is going to be individual for each
child in how they`re going to be able to cope.
O`DONNELL: Sean Lauderdale, thank you very much for joining us and
thank you for what you`re doing in town.
LAUDERDALE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it.
We`re going to be back right after this.
O`DONNELL: We are back live in Moore, Oklahoma.
I am joined by Nick Stremble and Shannon Largent. They were both on
duty at the hospital here in Moore and had to help move patients to safety
as the tornado approached.
Shannon, I imagine it was a lot of feelings of helplessness when a
tornado I approaching. Who could feel more helpless than patients in
hospital beds that can`t do anything for themselves? What did you have to
SHANNON LARGENT, MOORE MEDICAL CTR.: You know, that was our job that
day, was to make sure the patients felt safe and the staff felt safe, so we
were confident in what we were doing. We knew we needed to take care of
them to protect them and ourselves, and we just did what we needed to do.
O`DONNELL: Nick, did the patients know how serious the threat was as
it was approaching?
NICK STREMBLE, MOORE MEDICAL CTR.: I have a feeling most patients
knew pretty well that it was serious. You know, we try to be careful, not
scare anybody, and just let them know it is a serious situation, need to
get everybody safe. You know, we have to (INAUDIBLE) little issue.
I mean, everybody was very calm. Patients, community members showed
up to seek shelter were very calm. We were able to move everybody quickly
and efficiently without an issue.
O`DONNELL: So the hospital was shelter for people in the area that
decided that would be the place they wanted to be?
STREMBLE: Yes. We had a lot of community members show up at the
hospital seeking shelter minutes before the tornado hit, and we had folks
posted in different positions by entrances, kind of funneling them forward
to safe areas of the hospital.
O`DONNELL: And what are the safe areas? How did you -- where did you
move the patients to?
LARGENT: Well, my patients were initially on second floor, and what
we normally do in that situation is move them to the hallway and close the
windows and doors away from windows and doors. We knew that we were
probably going to get hit. So, we made the decision to move them
downstairs into an interior part of the building, which was in the
emergency department, and that`s where Nick`s patients were as well.
O`DONNELL: What about patients that need the most treatment, patients
who are in intensive care. What do you do with them?
STREMBLE: What we basically do, try to do, make sure we knew which
were the most serious, kept track of patients in the hospital at the time,
then when it is time to evacuate, arrange in an order that they need to be
transported out first. So, I mean, within getting patients out of the
building, across the street to the Warren Theater, and making sure
everybody was safe, I believe the first patient left probably within three
to four minutes, of us getting out of the building and over to the Warren
O`DONNELL: How many patients did you have to evacuate?
STREMBLE: There were 30 patients in the building at the time, nine of
those patients were Shannon`s patients. We had four more patients that
were OB patients, labor and delivery patients, and also had four patients,
various outpatients that were getting lab tests, neurology test and that
kind of things.
O`DONNELL: And patients and personnel, were they all out by the time
the tornado hit?
LARGENT: We did a really great job of identifying a quick exit. We
had enough personnel to help move patients out. We had some obstacles
getting out of the building, but we were able to make it out and across the
street, and we got everybody out safely.
O`DONNELL: They would not have survived if you hadn`t gotten them out
of there, looks like a total disaster area.
STREMBLE: Yes, we moved everybody that was in the building was in the
centermost part of the building. We saw surprisingly few injuries --
nicks, bruises, scrapes, a few cuts here and there. Everybody inside that
building, we were thinking there were 250 to 300 in the building at the
time, and everybody was safe, as safe as they could possibly be.
O`DONNELL: Nick and Shannon, thank you for joining me tonight and
thank you for the work you did yesterday saving lives. Really appreciate
LARGENT: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Joining me by phone is the mayor of Moore, Glenn Lewis.
Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.
MAYOR GLENN LEWIS, MOORE, OK: Thank you. Appreciate you guys getting
our story out.
O`DONNELL: And, Mr. Mayor, what does Moore need most now?
LEWIS: Right now, we actually need people to get out of the way.
We`ve got so many people coming from out of town just to look at it, that
they`re hampering our recovery efforts at this point.
O`DONNELL: And in terms of help from the state or federal assistance,
are you getting everything you need at this point?
LEWIS: Absolutely. I got a call from President Obama. He`s offered
all the resources that we can use -- anything we need basically is what he
told us. The FEMA director himself came in to the city this morning,
bright and early. They have over 200 boots on the ground right now.
So, the governor has been here the whole time. She just went home.
She was here last night. I mean, she has been phenomenal to work with.
Everyone has really tried to help their best. When you see this disaster
it is immense. We appreciate all of the help.
O`DONNELL: I just had a conversation with the Governor -- I just had
a conference with the governor here in this location before the show, and I
asked her when she thought she might get to sleep.
And, she seems to have no idea. Mr. Mayor, I am wondering about the
opportunity for this community to seek shelter in a situation like this,
when they feel not safe enough in their homes. Has Moore as a community
figured out plans for that before situations like this?
LEWIS: Actually, most of the people here have safe rooms. A lot of
the older areas do not have safe rooms. All the new houses, they
basically, every one of them has a new safe room in it. So, it is just the
older part of town, a lot of which was hit.
And, most people either have a safe room or storm shelter. You know,
we were very fortunate. We had 12 minutes of warning on this. A lot of
people are on the ground. Our city about 50,000 population, and we had,
you know, unfortunately 19 deaths with the Oklahoma City area had five.
So, you know, we are doing about as good as we can right now.
O`DONNELL: Mayor Lewis, can you take us through what happened today
on what turned out to be the very good news that there were many fewer
lives lost in this tornado than we thought 24 hours ago. How did that news
unfold for you?
LEWIS: I was actually walking through the neighborhood over there. I
believe with the governor when the news first came to us from the medical
examiner`s office from the state. And, it was quite surprising because we
had been told all the time it was 51. And, we`re not sure where that
number came from. So, the official report, you know, was 19 -- And, you
know, 24 total, but we were fortunate. But, still, you know, at the same
time that`s a lot of people -- lot of people that were killed in this
O`DONNELL: The truth really is a horrible loss. Mayor Glenn Lewis,
thank you very much for joining us tonight.
LEWIS: Thank you, sir, appreciate it. Bye.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, one estimate says as many as 20,000 families
may be displaced by yesterday`s tornado. How this community is dealing
with that part of the tragedy. It is coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK KEATING, FORMER OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR: Here you`re talking about
potentially according to some of the sources I have in Salvation Army and
the Red Cross there, there could be as many as 20,000 families displaced.
So it`s the Salvation Army and Red Cross that focus right now on getting
ourselves back on our feet as a community. But, it is going to be a long
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, talking
to MSNBC`s Andrea Mitchell. He is talking about the humanitarian crisis
this deadly tornado has left in its wake, up to 20,000 families with
nowhere to live. The Red Cross has opened four different shelters in the
area. The University of Oklahoma has opened up student housing in Norman
for those who have been displaced. Churches in the local ciudad center are
also running their own emergency shelters.
More than 170 members of the Oklahoma National Guard are here tonight
helping police, fire cruise and rescue workers with this massive recovery
effort. I am joined now by MSNBC`s Thomas Roberts, who has been on the
ground here in Moore all day. Thomas, the Red Cross effort here now has
really geared up quickly.
THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: It really has geared up quickly.
As you brought out in the top of the show, how people have turned out
today, trying to pick through their homes, just to find anything that they
could take away is a momentum for so many that have lost so much.
The American Red Cross has been here, and they set up really quickly
as you pointed out, four different shelters. I just spoke to somebody
before coming on that said that they don`t have exact figures of how many
people that they`ve seen come to their doors, but they are not hurting for
those that are displaced and they have already served thousands of meals
and they already have dozens more convoys on their way to this area. It
has been really interesting, though, to see the resiliency of the community
ROBERTS: Great guests tonight living on this street.
O`DONNELL: This is amazing.
ROBERTS: And, we bumped into Toby Keith. He is a hometown boy,
hometown hero, who`s sister lives right around the corner. We talked about
why this community is so important to him and also about the resiliency
that we have seen here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: You`ve got to be in utter shocked to see your hometown look
TOBY KEITH COVEL, AMERICAN COUNTRY MUSICIAN: Well, it is sad, it
happens here quite a bit. So, every four, five years you get to see
something like this. This was on the ground along time like the one in
1999. But, in between there, the same places in 1999 cause, and they built
back. They got hit two, three more times, smaller version of this.
They`re resilient. They bounce back. Neighborhoods help neighborhoods,
they come together. It is amazing. This is part of the reason I live
here. I love the spirit of this place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Thomas, the smiles that you get here and the good cheer --
I am wondering at a certain level how much of it is a shock. But, it is
something about these people know that this is possible here and in
psychological terms, they seem to be ready for it.
ROBERTS: Well, as we`ve seen in the context of looking back at the
storm of 1999 and knowing the damage that that storm created for this area
then, then in here we fast forward to today, almost identical storms,
almost identical storm paths, and the amount of damage that we are seeing
today is pretty much the same as they lived through before.
So, this community will come back for certain. I think tomorrow as we
were watching today, this is kind of a, you know, soaking in process of the
devastation. Tomorrow is going to be definitely more about the rebuild but
also about the mourning, because we have, you know, the 24 confirmed
deaths, nine of which were children.
So, this community still is going to be in mourning as they move
forward. But, you know, we at that other live shot location that we had a
family that was living there, they said they want to rebuild. They want to
come back. They are homeowners there for 12 years. They love their
street. They love this neighborhood. So, you know what? I bet they`ll be
O`DONNELL: The story that they told about saving their children in
that bathtub was amazing --
O`DONNELL: Where they put the sofa cushions on top of their kids in
the bathtub, mother and father then put all their weight holding down those
cushions. And, after the tornado was over, they just stood up and
discovered there was no house around them.
ROBERTS: It is absolutely amazing. And, they have three little
girls, A 6-year-old and two 4-year-old twins. Amber and Nathan are their
names. Amber and Nathan cries and they said the twins saved their blank --
they got a momento, but they want to come back today to find something for
their 6-year-old. Their 6-year-old also happens to go to Plaza Towers
Elementary, but was out by 11:30 because she attends early morning
O`DONNELL: I was helping their mom search through the rubble. And, I
actually found two very beat up digital cameras. I was able to get them
open and the discs were still in there and got to pull out both those discs
and give them to herself. We will see what pictures she gets.
ROBERTS: That`s fantastic.
O`DONNELL: It was great to be able to just watch through what was
left her and just looking for things. You know just trying to find what we
could possibly find. And, you know, she seemed a little -- she was very
kind of alert and present, but also just a little bit dazed, looking at
this, thinking where do I even turn.
ROBERTS: Well, the house to her, you know, she explained, this was
the living room, this was the kitchen.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Yes.
ROBERTS: And, you look at it, it is just a slab.
ROBERTS: I mean it is hard to make anything out except for the
bathtub, and that bathtub saved their lives.
O`DONNELL: Right in the middle of it all, saved everybody. Thomas
Roberts, thanks very much for being.
ROBERTS: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And, thanks for joining me tonight. Our coverage here in
Moore will continue.
O`DONNELL: The Red Cross is now taking your donations online by phone
calls and text messages to help with relief efforts here in Oklahoma. I am
joined by Vicki Eichstaedt with the American Red Cross. Vicki what do you
need most now?
VICKI EICHSTAEDT, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Right now, we need people to
reconnect with one another, to let everyone know they`re safe and well,
reestablish those family ties. It is so important in a disaster like this.
Stay close to one another. Stay connected. And, if people would like to
make a donation to help with disaster relief effort, we would encourage
them to call us at 1-800-REDCROSS or to make a text donation or to visit us
O`DONNELL: Vicki, I have already seen the Red Cross presence here.
It`s really impressive that it has geared up so quickly. Thank you very
much for being here. Thanks for what you`re doing.
EICHSTAEDT: Thanks, it is our privilege.
O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it. We will be back with more from
O`DONNELL: Seven children were killed inside Plaza Towers Elementary
School here. NBC News Kate Snow has more on what happened inside that
school as the tornado hit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATE SNOW, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside the walls of
the Plaza Towers Elementary School, 500 students were counting down the
days in the final week of class. But, in just a matter of minutes, their
campus went from looking like this to this. Classrooms completely
obliterated, an auditorium caved in. Parents of other students tell NBC
News children were in the auditorium.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: We have seen it from the air. This is it
right here behind me, as I step out of the way, and let Joe zoom in. This
is the front of Plaza Towers Elementary School. This school is basically
SNOW: In the hours after the tornado dramatic images, young children
were rescued, and with darkness, the search for survivors continued. Some
children had escaped from harm. Their parents have picked them up just
before the school went on locked on Monday.
But, the majority stayed inside as they practiced in drills many
times. Math teacher Rhonda Crossway was helping her sixth graders with an
end of school game when the principal came over the loudspeaker and told
them to go to the hallway. Damien Klein is a fourth grader.
DAMIEN KLEIN, PLAZA TOWERS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT: She told us all
to just get a math book or your bag, and I already had my bag. And, then
we went in the hall.
SNOW: Why did she tell you to get a math book or a bag.
KLEIN: So, we could put it over our head.
SNOW: A fifth grade teacher saw the funnel cloud approaching, and
yelled for everyone to leave the hallway and get into closets or bathrooms.
RHONDA CROSSWAY, MATH TEACHER: You have to get them in there. He was
like you`re getting in there, too.
SNOW: She was in a bathroom stall crouched over four children and she
did what teachers do.
CROSSWAY: I remember a little boy saying I love you, Ms. Crossway.
Please don`t let me die. I said, "we` not dying today." We are not dying
today. Quit saying that." And, I did the teacher thing that we`re
probably not supposed to do, I prayed and prayed out loud.
SNOW: The ceiling crashed down on them, but the wall still stood.
When it was quiet again, she sent a small boy to climb up the bathroom wall
and look out.
CROSSWAY: He got up there, and he looked down at me and he said
there`s nothing left.
SNOW: Damien was in the same bathroom crouched under a sink.
SNOW: How loud was it?
KLEIN: It was pretty loud.
SNOW: Were you scared?
KLEIN: Uh-huh. There was a bunch of people screaming. We could hear
it from the girl`s restroom.
SNOW: His mom spent an anxious hour wondering if her little boy was
still alive. And, now she wonders why the school didn`t have a better
BRANDI KLEIN, MOTHER OF DAMIEN KLEIN: I think every school in
Oklahoma should have an underground shelter. It shouldn`t take a tornado
this size and this many kids hurt, missing, and lost their lives to realize
that they need underground shelters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was NBC News Kate Snow reporting. Coming up, what
happened at one of the other elementary schools here in Moore, Oklahoma as
our live coverage continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: There`s the school. I am not sure the
exact name of it, but that`s going to be south of 4th street. It is going
to be east of Santa Fe. Whatever school that is, it is going to be -- it
is like you see, completely destroyed as kids run up to hopefully their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, here is more video of Briarwood Elementary School
just moments after the tornado hit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is she out? She`s out? OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, the man who recorded that video and took
many of the defining photographs from the past 24 hours. Paul Hellstern, a
photographer for the Oklahoman. Paul, when did you first head out toward
PAUL HELLSTERN, OKLAHOMAN PHOTOGRAPHER: Yes. Probably, about 30
minutes before I actually sat down listening to the weather reports on the
O`DONNELL: Did you -- were you anticipating catching that the tornado
would hit there and you wanted to catch that with your cameras?
HELLSTERN: I was hoping so. What, I tried to do is to get south of
the line from what they were talking that it might pass to get a better
shot at it looking north and to stay out of the way.
O`DONNELL: Take us into the emotion of that parking lot. I`ve never
seen anything like what you just showed us on your recorded video. There`s
a kind of hysteria there that people just tense about what they might or
might not find there.
HELLSTERN: Right. The situation, there`s something happening in
every direction. And, as a photographer, you don`t know which direction
you can point the camera. All of the children crying. The teachers doing
their best to calm them down. But, they have just been through of course
the most horrendous event of their life obviously. Most of them missing
their parents, wanting to know that everything is OK and it just takes a
long time to get them calmed down actually after what they have been
O`DONNELL: And, this was the school where everything was OK. So, you
watched parents arrive there in a panic and at some point find that child
that they were looking for and you saw those hugs
HELLSTERN: Yes. I sure did, yes. Quite a number of different cases,
I saw where the parents ran up to the children and made that reunion. I
saw one woman who almost 20 minutes frantically looking for her child, and
at the end I noticed she did have her little girl with her, so everything
worked out well.
O`DONNELL: And, were there any moments there where it felt like this
was going to end very badly for some of these people? Did you have that
feeling in your gut?
HELLSTERN: I really did. Once, they started -- I thought they had
all these children out, then I saw that they opened up another area of the
school, started pulling more out. And, a few minutes later, rescue workers
arrived and started digging through a heavily damaged wall and ceiling that
is all in one area. And, I was hoping that there weren`t any children
underneath there. Fortunately, there weren`t.
O`DONNELL: Paul Hellstern, thank you for sharing your work with us
and thanks for being with us tonight. Thank you very much.
HELLSTERN: Thank you. I appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: I am joined again for final thoughts with Chris Jansing
and Thomas Roberts. Chris, you have seen much more of this than I
certainly have. You have been in many of these kind of disaster areas.
What does this experience, how does it compare to the other things you
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I was thinking as I
was looking at that amazing video of the hugs and the reunions and some of
those what could be iconic still pictures that something that binds
tragedies together is distillation of what`s important.
You know, there is a perspective that is gained, even in tragedy, in
death, the meaning of life, and how important, how we value it, what our
family means to us, what our friends mean to us, how much stuff doesn`t
mean when you know that there are little children who are crushed under the
weight of their school.
And, so I think resiliency is a word you have used a lot in this hour,
and we see that throughout and I think that, that part of the American
spirit and that coming together of communities is what gives us hope, and
keeps us moving forward, and makes what might be an unbearable tragedy
somehow able to be born.
O`DONNELL: Thomas, your thoughts on the second day of what`s
THOMAS ROBERTS, NBC CONTRIBUTOR: We also interested when you talked
to Paul Hellstern to close out the show because we began with Paul`s images
this morning. This was the cover of the Oklahoman. I know this is really
small for everybody to see, but it is worse than May 3rd.
ROBERTS: And, it shows that image of the woman carrying a little
girl, the man carrying the other student out with bloodied faces and it is
just amazing to think that they lived through that.
And, again, this was the Briarwood, that is the elementary school
where the national weather service has gone through to evaluate the damage
there, to evaluate the fact that they can now categorize this has an EF-5.
So, it really is full circle when you think about what that school means.
What it means to the front page of the Oklahoma. And, today, I will be
interested to see the images that Paul has for tomorrow`s morning`s paper.
O`DONNELL: Chris Jansing, where does the community go from here?
JANSING: Well, there was a memorial service tonight that was held
tonight and certainly there will be others. They are going to be moving
forward, obviously. There will be small children who are going to be
buried, including that baby you mentioned at the beginning.
But, there will also be rebuilding here that will be a re-commitment
to this community. And, I think as we have seen so many times before,
there will be a sense of a new start for a lot of people, who want to stay
here, who want to remain neighbors.
And, so there`s always that push and pull when we come to a scenes
like this about how horrible it is what happened, but the possibilities of
what lie ahead. And, it sounds like a hallmark card in some cases, but I
have found over the years that it is really true.
O`DONNELL: And, that is the last word here from Moore, Oklahoma
tonight. Chris, Thomas, thanks for joining me. Chris Hayes is up next.
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