Nightly News   |  May 22, 2012

Catching up with Bethany Lansaw

‘Nightly News’ spoke with Joplin tornado survivor Bethany Lansaw, who first talked with NBC’s Brian Williams in 2011.

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

>> there last year, we met a woman who had a survivor's story to tell. she and her husband had all kinds of plans for the future, but all that changed in that one instant. we went back to see how bethany was doing a year after the tornado bore down on their home.

>> this used to be home.

>> reporter: this is the day a year ago, when bethany 's life was changed forever.

>> this is where the garage was. my bedroom would have been right over here.

>> reporter: joplin and its survivors were in shock when we first arrived thereafter the tornados a year ago. and one of the stories we encountered was that of a young couple, bethany and don, married six years, planning a family. then a massive storm came out of the western sky.

>> i mean, the house was ripping apart. i honestly -- it happened so fast.

>> when the funnel was upon them, bethany instinctively took cover in the bathtub. don who had been a high school football star threw his body over hers to protect her. he covered you?

>> he just has so much love in his heart. and you know people keep saying 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. he got on top of me to take the brunt of most of it and -- he's my hero. he's --

>> while shielding her body, don was hit by debris and died of a puncture wound to the back.

>> i try to remember his smile and the way his eyes lit up when i would walk into the room. he's always in my heart .

>> reporter: by now, lots of people in joplin know the story of don and bethany . it's become part of the collective memory of the disaster.

>> when that tornado hit, it was -- life started over. do i have my down moments? of course. i think anybody would.

>> reporter: bethany has gone back to work, back to school and gotten involved in joplin 's community theater .

>> reporter: and when she needed a place to stay, her best friend insisted that bethany and her dog whisper move in permanently. these days she has more good days than bad, and finds comfort in the fact that even on the worst day of her life, she was loved and protected.

>> if he got to pick a way to go, i don't think he would have chosen another way, because he was that type of person. even though he died a hero like that, he was always a hero to me.

>> bethany was happy to share the news with us, that she will earn her master's degree this summer, opening up yet another chapter in her life.