Oklahoma tornadoes: Survivor rides out tornado in doomed Moore school

James and Kristy Rushing lost their Moore home of almost 15 years, which they shared with five foster children. All they salvaged were some pictures.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Published: May 22, 2013

MOORE — James Rushing works nights for UPS, so he was sleeping Monday afternoon as the massive tornado barreled toward his home, directly across the street from Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Fortunately for him, he awoke to the sound of hail hitting his roof.

Walking outside, he looked to the southwest.

“I could see houses being destroyed,” he recalled Tuesday. “I immediately took off running to the school and … as soon as I got in … the roof just ripped right off.

“I was in a bathroom with a bunch of kids, and we were just all covered in debris. It was just so fast. I mean I got into that bathroom and was being hit with debris. And, just like nothing, it was over. And then you look up, there's no roof. And then you look out the door of the bathroom, the front of the school is completely gone.”

Rushing, 36, and his wife, Kristy, 35, have five foster children.

One, Aiden, 5, was inside the school when the tornado hit. James Rushing found the boy in the parking lot. He said Aiden was shook up.

The couple's home of almost 15 years, at 853 SW 11, was gone. All they were able to salvage Monday were some pictures.

Kristy Rushing drove home Monday as fast as she could, afraid that her husband and foster son were dead.

“At least everybody's alive in my family, but some of my neighbors lost their kids,” she said in tears. “It's just terrible.”

Parents walked up and down the street screaming for their children, she said. She recalled one man screaming, “Where's my wife? She's a teacher there. Has anybody seen her?”

“It's horrible,” Kristy Rushing said. Later, she saw two covered bodies being removed from the back of the school.

For now, the Rushings are staying with relatives.

“It's crazy when you wake up and you don't have any clothes, you don't have any shoes, you don't have your toothpaste, you don't have nothing,” Kristy Rushing said. “We don't even know what we're supposed to do.”

At the school Tuesday, the search for bodies continued.

“They will not declare that structure cleared until they have been down to the ground and been through every piece of rubble in that building,” Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird said at a midday news conference.

He said he didn't expect any more bodies would be found at the school, but added, “I cannot guarantee that.”


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