Nightly News   |  May 25, 2011

Tornado-surviving wife: 'He's my hero'

Bethany Lansaw of Joplin, Missouri, shares the heart-wrenching details of how her husband died after sheltering her from the giant twister. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> we have one more story from joplin . this is the story of bethany and don. two people married six years, struggling in the economy, but well enough to have a house. bethany works at the local health facility. don worked at a machine shop . they had a lot of plans before a tornado bore down on their house sunday afternoon.

>> i mean, the house was ripping apart. honestly, it happened so fast. all the pillows were flying off us. the only thing where managed to do was keep one right in front of my face.

>> don landsaw, a former high school football star and the love of bethany 's life knew his body over his as their house and their world was being ripped apart. he covered you.

>> he just has so much love. in his heart. and you know, people keep saying that he wouldn't have wanted it any other way, but if i could have taken twice as much damage just to have him alive, i would have. and he got on top of me to take the brunt of most of it. and you know, he's -- he's my hero.

>> reporter: in the strange period of calm after the tornado. bethany thought she could still save her husband who was lying in the bath toob. the houses on the street were gone. her neighbors were either dead, trapped, or walking around stunned. don was turning blue. she didn't know it, but he had a puncture wound in his back. she flagged down a good samaritan, asking for help and getting an ambulant, but don was already gone.

>> he just -- he did what he could to protect his family. and i did everything i could to get him help.

>> reporter: oddly, in the house where the storm took don's life, it didn't take their high school varsity jackets. it didn't take all the books off the shelves or all the stuff out of the cabinet under the sink. friends found their wedding photos and brought them to the house where bethany is now staying.

>> just a great, great man. and loved by so many people. and there's a little guy that misses him fully.

>> bethany and don were dog sitting with a spaniel. he stayed with don's body after the storm had passed. don's dog whisper knows something is wrong, so they're keeping him occupied while bethany tries to put one foot in front of the other and go on.

>> to people who have tried to he help, i do want to say thank you because we tried.

>> reporter: bethany is just a nice person from joplin , missouri, just like everyone we met there. and like a lot of folk said there, she remains pretty banged up. friends have set up a memorial fund at a local bank and we have put the information for you on our website, nightly.msnbc.com.

>>> later tonight, the people making a difference in joplin by showing up and doing the hard wurng.