Nightly News | April 30, 2011
>>> the major trauma hospital for this part of alabama is just blocked from where we are standing. i spent some time there today talking to both patients and staff about a day they will all remember as a day of miracles and unspeakable tragedy. from his tuscaloosa hospital room, reginald epps recounts what may be the worst and best day of his life.
>> lights went out. and the winds got heavy. and the windows blew.
>> reporter: only the foundation remains of his coaling, alabama home, destroyed on wednesday by a predawn tornado, the first of many that day. as it hit, he and his wife, danielle, rushed to grab their three sleeping children.
>> she grabs the baby boy . i grab my middle boy. i said james, get up, buddy. get up. and when i go up to get r.j. off the top bunk, the walls and everything just go and my son go with it.
>> at that moment did you think you'd lost him?
>> yeah. i guess i did.
>> reporter: but as reginald and his wife clutch their other children, praying out loud, 8-year-old r.j. suddenly walked into view.
>> i could see the shadow of him coming across, and then finally kind of cleared up and i could see him.
>> when you look up in the midst of all this and you see r.j. walking back --
>> just happy. i just -- that's my boy.
>> reporter: reginald epps suffered a punctured lung and was taken to the medical center here in tuscaloosa just in time to witness his second tornado of the day. the much larger one that struck in the afternoon and destroyed this neighborhood and nearly the hospital itself.
>> i was here, and then you could see the db rie in that window. yeah. that debris was just swirling.
>> it was just coming right directly for the hospital and turned and went around the hospital, within a few blocks.
>> reporter: spared a direct hit , within minutes the hospital's e.r. was overwhelmed with victims.
>> this was the worst. this was the worst.
>> reporter: over 800 patients retreated here wednesday some didn't make it. the memories haunt dr. angelin ramsey.
>> our first victims were babies, literally 18-month, 2-year-old babies that were dead on -- dead on arrival . and i had to go out and pronounce them in the ambulance bay. and that i was not ready for.
>> reporter: as the number of dead rises, there is no accounting for the emotional casualties of this disaster. nor are there ready answers to the questions that haunt survivors.
>> my neighbor called me the other day. he said, "i got your two-by-fours in my wall." and i'm thinking, wow. if i got two-by-fours in his wall, why didn't my son get thrown further away? why didn't we just get sucked up off the concrete? there's only a slab there. my house is folded up neatly in a pile to the side of the slab.
>> it's gone.
>> it's gone.
>> reginald tells me his son r.j. who was blown from the house suffered only a few bumps. amazing. the family says they're especially fortunate in that while they lost their home like a lot of folks they have a number of friends and loved ones who have offered them places for them to stay. they say they are going to be just fine.