Nightly News   |  May 24, 2013

Heroic teacher, legs pinned under car, pulled students from debris

Remarkable stories of survival have emerged from Moore, Okla., where teachers summoned grace and strength under the most difficult of circumstances. NBC’s Kate Snow reports.

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>>> turning now to moore, oklahoma , at the end of a trying week. five days after a massive tornado hit that community, police have removed the last checkpoints closing off the affected areas. residents are picking up the pieces and nbc's kate snow has a moving interview at the plaza towers elementary school where seven children were killed. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening. two more children were laid to rest today, 3rd graders at plaza towers elementary. the principal was on hand. tonight she and others are speaking out for the first time about the loss and what they did to try to protect hundreds of others when the tornado hit. you haven't been back here?

>> no. this is my first time.

>> reporter: principal amy simpson and her teachers had only 16 minutes from the time the tornado touched down in oklahoma to the moment they were hit.

>> they come right out of their doors and line up against here.

>> reporter: the kids were crouched down along hallway walls singing the abcs. seconds before impact simpson said simply, it's here.

>> first it's just a rattling like someone walking on the roof. then you feel things fall into your hair. just little things , you know. then all of the sudden -- bigger things. that's when i started to yell.

>> reporter: what did you yell?

>> just in god's name, go away. go away.

>> reporter: so you came out of your office and you went this way.

>> climbed over.

>> reporter: when it was over she walked around the corner to where linda patterson 's pre- k class was moments before. what are you hearing?

>> i hear the child under me saying i'm not breathing, i can't breathe. i had weight on her.

>> reporter: what blew on top of you?

>> a wall. some two by fours, a car.

>> reporter: a car?

>> a car was there on top of all of this debris.

>> reporter: the lower half of linda's body was pinned under the car. she used her arms to pull out children around her.

>> reporter: you saved their lives.

>> no.

>> yes, she did.

>> i did what -- that's what i needed to do. that's where i needed to be.

>> reporter: plaza towers was built in 1966 and had no basement or reinforced shelter.

>> we are probably the fastest growing district, the third largest district. as we build and build is money has gone for classroom space.

>> reporter: not for shelters.

>> not for shelters.

>> reporter: pierce says there are fresh discussions happening now about all of this, whether they should build shelters in every school in oklahoma . it's a subject that may well come up on sunday when president obama visits here. also sunday a memorial service for the public to recognize those who were lost this week. ann?

>> an important moment for moore. there will be more from kate snow and her conversation with the principal and teachers at plaza towers elementary on "rock center."