She sent another email to principals — if the sirens sound, students stay at school until the storms pass. They can leave with their parents, but everybody stays put. The same decision was made in Oklahoma City and Norman.
Then the tornado came down from the sky. The sirens sounded.
School workers throughout the district did what they'd been trained to do, and children got into their “tornado positions.” They crouched down in classrooms and hallways and covered their heads.
An elementary school teacher lined up the desks in her classroom like a train, and the students played music until it was time to hunker down. Teachers held hands. One principal stayed on the intercom through it all.
At the administration building, everyone split up into four rooms lined with lead — a holdover from when the place was a hospital.
The storm rumbled. The building shook. Everyone prayed. Boom. Silence.
They opened the doors and the building was destroyed. When they emerged from the wreckage, they saw the neighborhood behind was gone.
With no cellphone use, a few administrators walked down the road until they could hitch a ride. A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms field agent named Pablo picked them up.
“You're going to have to direct me,” he told them. “We don't come to Moore very often.”
They arrived at the command center and that's when they heard the news from a city worker. Two schools had been destroyed and children may have died.
It was two hours after the storm hit.
Pierce went to Plaza Towers and was asked to help officials communicate with parents and identify bodies.
What did children wear to school that day? What color was his hair? Were her ears pierced?
“We thought that night we had lost seven of our babies and seven families had lost their children,” Pierce said.
After children were pulled from the rubble, teachers sat with them, singing songs and holding their hands. They wrapped little ones in rugs or whatever they could find.
Across the district, employees were still reuniting students with their families. Streets were covered with debris, and windows of all the buses were blown out. Children were stranded. No homes to go to. Trapped parents. Destroyed cars.
Teachers and administrators stayed with them the whole time.
“People who say that there's no prayer in public schools,” Pierce said, “weren't around Monday afternoon.”
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Moore students can say goodbye
MOORE — Students who attend Moore Public Schools can collect their belongings and say goodbye to their teachers from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday.
School was closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which would have been the last day of the school year.
Students can go to the schools they normally attend, except for those who attend the three schools damaged by the tornado Monday:
• Plaza Towers Elementary students can go to Eastlake Elementary, 1301 SW 134.
• Briarwood Elementary students will go to Wayland Bonds Elementary, 14025 S May.
• Highland East Junior High students will go to Moore High School, 300 N Eastern, from 10 a.m. to noon Friday instead of Thursday.
Seniors are asked to go to their respective high schools between 10 a.m. and noon Thursday to meet with principals about graduation.
Graduations for all three high schools are still set for Saturday at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. The times are:
• Westmoore: 9:30 a.m.
• Southmoore: 2 p.m.
• Moore: 6 p.m.