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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Mother Reunites with Son After Tornado; Hero Teacher Kept Students Safe; Town Devastated
Aired May 21, 2013 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks.
Good evening, everyone. We are at the end of a searing day standing in a neighborhood that is almost unrecognizable. We've seen parents and children reunited today. We've also met parents who have gotten the worst news possible. We have seen heroes emerge, neighbors and strangers alike rising to the occasion. And you'll meet some of them tonight.
We begin, though, with the very latest information for you. The search for survivors and victims continues tonight. Crews with dogs have been going block by block all day checking, rechecking and checking a third time. More than 100 people have been rescued alive from the rubble.
They have been covering a lot of devastation. We learned late today that the tornado was as powerful as they come, an EF-5 storm with winds topping 200 miles an hour. It stayed on the ground for 17 miles, damage -- you can certainly see the damage for yourself. House after house destroyed, a hospital damaged, movie theaters, stores, a bowling alley, all torn up.
A state insurance official estimates the claims could top $1 billion. The cost in lives so far, 24, including nine kids. Many at Plaza Towers Elementary School.
This is video from late last night when the toll was considerably higher because local authorities mistakenly counted some of the fatalities twice. Still, a sobering number, 24 killed, several hundred injured, lives forever torn apart.
President Obama spoke today of the loss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms and bedrooms and classrooms, and in time, we're going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mr. Obama said Oklahoma needs to get everything it needs right away to recover and pledged to do all he can to make that happen. And even as the search and recovery goes on, we keep getting new and incredible pictures of the brutal storm, including home video taken from a storm cellar as the funnel cloud goes directly overhead, about 10 seconds in you'll see a car tire go by. Watch.
Now Charles Gaffert shot that video. He tells the story behind it a bit later on in the program. You'll meet him. But first one of the most incredible stories to emerge from this disaster begins outside Briarwood Elementary School. Shortly after the storm as frantic parents searched for their kids.
We just want you to watch this to understand what it was like for parents, what they were going through yesterday in that school parking lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Justin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justin?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All fifth graders right here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch out for the wires.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifth grade.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, where is she?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That last reunion you saw was Trenda Purcell, her son Camden and his Camden's teacher, Waynel Mayes, they join me now live.
It is so good to have you all here and doing so well. How are you holding up?
TRENDA PURCELL, REUNITED WITH SON AFTER TORNADO: Thank you. I'm doing great. I'm happy and pleased as punch with this lady right here because I think that she had an integral part in saving all the kids in her room. It was a miracle that kids walked out alive of that building.
COOPER: Teachers do an incredible job every day of the year, all around this country, but what happened here yesterday, the heroism shown, so many teachers. Explain what you did when you knew this storm was coming.
WAYNEL MAYES, 1ST GRADE TEACHER, BRIARWOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Well, one of my friends sent me on her iPad that -- what she thought it was coming, so I just got all the desks and I told the kids that we were going to play worms and so I told them to get underneath the desks and I put them two by two, and I said OK, we're going to play our musical instruments and we're going to play worms and we're going to play as loud as we can. So I wanted -- didn't want them to hear the roar.
COOPER: So that's why you wanted the musical instruments to kind of -- drown out the sound of the --
MAYES: And I didn't want them to know what was going to happen. And so we got under the desk two by two and my aide on the other side, Miss Galinsky (ph), she got on one side and put her body in half and I put my body on the other half, and we started playing the instruments and as we started singing "Jesus Loves Me" and we started playing really loud and singing "Jesus Loves me" and I told them to sing as loud as they could and if they got scared they could scream but sing as loud as they could.
And so that's what we did. And I said, when you get scared, you can scream but keep playing, keep playing, keep playing. And we did it. And when it was all over, the kids told me that they thought the water fountain was leaking.
COOPER: That's what they thought, the water fountain was leaking.
MAYES: Yes. And I said, that might be rain.
And then they were so brave and this little boy didn't cry at all. He just goes, what are we -- he goes -- and I said there might be heroes coming. One of them goes -- I forget which one. Do you know which one said what kind of heroes? Do you remember?
COOPER: Were you scared? Little bit?
Could you hear the storm? I mean, above the sound of the music?
MAYES: We could hear. It was so loud. But the kids just kept on, they were so brave. And this little one, he didn't cry at all. He was just playing his music and he was the bravest little boy ever, ever. And then after it came, I said guys, you're going to have to start playing your music loud so they hear us. And so they just kept playing their little instruments that I had, and then finally, these people off the street just came and rescued us.
COOPER: And what was the condition of the classroom afterward?
MAYES: Well, we didn't know because we were underneath the desks.
MAYES: And then the people came, these men off the streets came and they pulled us out and Camden and them got out first, and then we were -- I was stuck and then we got out and they went one way from the classroom and I went another.
COOPER: And you had a -- you had a head injury.
MAYES: Yes. But I didn't -- I just remember I got hit when I got out -- when I was getting out.
COOPER: And the video of you -- I mean, you had actually been going to a couple locations to try to find Camden.
T. PURCELL: I had. I had. I walked a mile, maybe. I was told he was at one location, I went there. He wasn't there. So then I had to go to another location and then that's when I found him and praise God that he was alive.
MAYES: And they were still -- but you don't know, all our teachers were so brave. It wasn't just -- it was our kids following directions. They were the bravest. They were the heroes because they listened to all the teachers.
COOPER: Had you done drills on this before?
MAYES: We practice every month and all the teachers --
COOPER: You practice the worm or you --
MAYES: No, we practice fire drills.
COOPER: OK. So you just came up with the idea of doing the worm.
MAYES: And -- yes. We practice fire drills every month because that's a guideline and we practice safety procedures, that's our -- you know, that's in the rules of the school. But the kids, we always tell them how important it is to follow safety procedures.
MAYES: Like -- and the kids were so good.
COOPER: Camden, could you hear the storm or were you just hearing your music?
CAMDEN PURCELL, SURVIVED TORNADO AT BRIARWOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: The storm.
COOPER: Yes? And what was it like afterward? Were the desks all on top of you?
C. PURCELL: No. The desk was in front of us. And the roof was on top of the desk.
COOPER: And everybody at school was OK? That's just such an incredible blessing. And that must have been the most incredible hug when you saw him for the first time?
T. PURCELL: It was. It was but not only was I so happy just to see him, I was praising her because I just feel that she helped keep him safe. COOPER: Yes. Well, there's no doubt about it. Thank you so much for talking to us. I'm just so glad things worked out for you.
T. PURCELL: Thank you. Appreciate it.
COOPER: Stay strong. I hope your head's OK.
MAYES: Yes. And thank you for all the teachers that -- and for all the kids that just followed directions.
COOPER: Yes. Well, that's great. Thank you so much.
MAYES: Thank you.
T. PURCELL: Thank you. Thank you.
COOPER: So glad you're here.
T. PURCELL: Thank you.
COOPER: It's Trenda, Waynel and Camden.
As we said at the top, survey crews today took a look at the destruction, put this tornado at an EF-5. Now to explain how they made that determination and what exactly that means, I want to quickly check in with our Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center.
So, Chad, what does that mean, EF-5?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It means that a structure, a well-built structure, well attached to a foundation or a slab, was completely wiped away in one place or another. They have found more than one place where these homes are just completely gone.
Behind me, the classic shape of a super cell tornado. This was yesterday around 3:45 in the afternoon. The head of the storm here, hail core here, the comma, the tail of the storm here, the tornado right there.
The tornado came out of Newcastle right through here, and it was right there at this time. Let me show you the structure of the storm, though, as we take a look three dimensionally. This was picking up debris, this was picking up shingles and trees and everything else on the ground, throwing it into the sky. Thousands of feet in the sky. If we can rotate this around, it's an amazing picture if you consider what's going on here. Now we have winds at this point 210 miles per hour.
Anderson, this storm went from zero, went from nothing, all the way to 166 to an EF-4 in just 10 minutes. And now this almost looks like -- kind of look like a coral reef but in fact, this is not rain or hail coming down. This is the debris in the sky getting thrown as high as 20,000 feet up and obviously then raining back down on the people of Moore and of Newcastle.
I am so thankful at this point in time that our numbers, our fatality number went down to 24, because last night when it seemed like it was climbing, when we were talking to the people there, the investigators, it's like wow, where could this go, because when you have a storm like this, that now we know 210 miles per hour, damage was complete. Some of these houses don't exist anymore. There's nothing more to see, not even the refrigerator, not the kitchen, not a bathroom. They're all gone.
COOPER: Yes, the state medical examiner, when we talked to her, the spokesperson last night, she --
COOPER: She gave us basically the wrong estimate. It seemed like they had doubled or double counted and that was thankfully a great correction that they made today.
COOPER: Those numbers went down, 24 still a huge number of fatalities. So many of them kids.
COOPER: A quick reminder, the needs here are enormous. They're going to be for quite some time. People from all over the country are trying to rush to fill it. The local NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, donating $1 million to Red Cross, Salvation Army and other disaster relief organizations.
If you want to help, we got plenty of ways, just go to CNN.com/impact, again, that's CNN.com/impact for all the links.
We're also going to get the latest from Oklahoma's governor and the mayor of Moore ahead tonight right here from live in Moore. Also, it's hard to imagine how anyone could have survived inside Plaza Towers Elementary. But they did. You'll meet another heroic teacher. She knew exactly how to give her kids the best chance possible to stay safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to pull a car out of the front hallway off a teacher. And she -- I don't know what that lady's name is but she had three little kids underneath her. Good job, Teach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: "Good job, Teach." There's a lot of people saying that today here in Moore, Oklahoma. And we've seen it so many times in so many places, teachers saving young lives. For days, Janice Brim had been telling her sixth graders to finish strong this year. That was the motto for the end of their year. Yesterday, they and she certainly did just that. With the tornado coming, she found them shelter inside the school. She knew from her husband who works in construction that a hallway wouldn't cut it so they hunkered down in a closet, in a bathroom, and they made it.
Janice Brim joins us now along with her husband, Mark, who rushed to the scene and helped rescue people at the school.
It's great to see you both here. So when you knew the storm was coming, tell me what happened.
JANICE BRIM, 6TH GRADE TEACHER, PLAZA TOWERS ELEMENTARY: Well, I knew it was coming because Mark was sending me texts and he said, you need to get out of the hallways and into smaller places. We actually knew it was getting ready to hit when the lights started flashing and that's when we all -- we all didn't just duck and cover in the hall, we went into the bathrooms and got inside the closet.
COOPER: And you were watching it on TV.
MARK BRIM, WIFE WAS AT PLAZA TOWERS ELEMENTARY: Yes, I was at home watching on television.
COOPER: And you knew it was going to come toward the school.
M. BRIM: Yes. The weather -- the weather guys were saying hey, this is going to develop. And the traditional hook that was on there was huge. And I go in the bedroom and come back and send her a text, this thing's developing, and by the time I get back in the house, I mean, in the front room, it's already -- it's already huge. And then this -- the reporter, weather man, was saying this thing's going to develop, it's going to drop, it's going to be a monster.
People, if you're in the Newcastle, South Oklahoma City area, you need to get out right now. And it was directly northeast of us and that's the way they travel so I was getting in the truck to leave and as I was leaving my residence, I looked over at Newcastle which is just maybe five miles and there it was. It was just a pencil. And as I was trying to drive away, down the road, it just got thicker and thicker and thicker.
COOPER: And you decided to go toward the school --
M. BRIM: Well, the radio was then saying hey, this thing isn't going northeast, it's going directly east and it was between the streets that the school was at and I'm like this is going to hit the school. So I turned around and the thing had passed me then, so I started chasing it down 134th Street and it was probably half a mile in front of me. And passing cop cars and people were -- and the lights were out and I got to the edge of the school street where you go into the school and there were houses there and I thought this was a good sign.
And the tornado was just right there and so I went another block and then there was a little more damage, then another block and more damage, and pretty soon I got close to the school, houses, you've seen them, were just tore up. And I saw the school and it was -- it was leveled. And I had to use the four wheel drive to go around the poles and the wires to get into the parking lot and I was the first vehicle that I saw there. I couldn't see other people and I'm thinking she's gone. I've lost her.
COOPER: That was your thought?
M. BRIM: Yes. There's no way that anybody could walk away from this.
COOPER: And you had been previously told to be in the hallways but your husband said no, go into a closet, that's the safest place.
J. BRIM: Yes. We've rehearsed this a lot of times. I've been at Plaza for five years, and we were going right by our procedures, everybody did. And our principal Amy Simpson was wonderful. Her husband's a firefighter. He was there, about the same time Mark was. And we got into the closet and I held the door.
COOPER: How many kids did you have in that closet?
J. BRIM: We had five.
COOPER: And you were actually holding on to the door?
M. BRIM: Well, yes. And everybody else, we fit into the bathrooms. Fourth, fifth and sixth grade.
COOPER: What was it like trying to hold on to that door?
J. BRIM: Well, that's the injury I have.
COOPER: And that's from holding on to the door?
J. BRIM: Yes. We were all underneath that.
COOPER: And so, I mean, you literally felt the door being -- trying to -- just get sucked and open?
J. BRIM: Yes. Sometimes it would pull that way and sometimes debris would come in. I'd tell the kids we may get rained on because the roof's going to lift off. But we're hanging tight. We are staying strong right here. And eventually, it seemed like it lasted forever. I think it actually hovered here for awhile. It lasted, it was loud. You could hear the windows crashing first. Of course, the lights went out but then it got light again because the ceiling was gone. But we were safe, all four walls of that little closet were still standing.
COOPER: Did you know she had made it into the closet?
M. BRIM: Well, we -- the last few texts -- the one phone call we had, she asked, she said, do you think the printer closet is safe? And I knew where it was right across from her room. And I said absolutely, safest room in the school. And from what I understand, she got in there and then the other teachers took the other kids into the bathrooms which were right next to it in the corner.
COOPER: So you go in there, you see the hallways destroyed.
M. BRIM: I'm going down the hallway, there's knee-deep of stuff. All the roof now, all the ceiling stuff, everything is down on the floors, plus there's shingles from the houses all around are down on the floor. And crawling through, and I could see the printer closet and it was three-quarters of the way covered from stuff on the outside. And I'm banging on the door with a piece of metal yelling. Yelling at her. And I could hear them in there and pretty soon, a guy comes up on top of the wall and says hey, I can see them through the top, I'm going to try to lift them out.
And about this time, the teachers that were in the bathrooms, they come out and the kids are just screaming, crying, and the teachers, some of them were -- one of them was barefoot and the kids were trying to get out and there was still some electricity because I saw some lights, and I said walk down the hall here, keep your hands on the wall, don't touch any wires and so they began to filter out one at a time.
I said just help the one in front of you, OK. They were just crying so hard and the teachers were helping them out. About that time some other men began to come from other areas, two and three in the hall so they started helping them out, some more guys were showing up. To me it was amazing to watch, over the five-minute period that I was there, the number of men and women that were coming from the neighborhoods that had been destroyed.
M. BRIM: To come and help try to pull out the kids. We worked our way around back where the rescue area was, where the walls had fallen down.
COOPER: And you saw her again.
M. BRIM: And Janice, when they brought her off -- out of the room, we saw each other, I threw her a jacket and she knew she needed to go find some people and I went with some other guys to see if we could clear some other rooms.
COOPER: You went to try to help others.
M. BRIM: And I was surprised --
J. BRIM: Yes.
M. BRIM: -- that she was OK.
COOPER: So glad, too. Thank you so much.
J. BRIM: Thank you. COOPER: So glad you're all right. So glad for your staying strong all throughout that. Amazing. Finishing strong. Just like your motto.
J. BRIM: Yes. Finish strong. And my kids are the ones that reminded me that's our motto. We did that today.
COOPER: You certainly did. Janice and Mark, thank you so much.
J. BRIM: Thank you.
COOPER: Really appreciate it. Just incredible. Janice and Mark Brim.
A lot of kids owe their lives to teachers, there's no doubt about it. Seven Plaza Tower children did not make it. And we remember them tonight. They're all across the area, the search for any additional survivors, that continues. Local authorities pledging to check every place three times just to make sure no one, no one has been missed and everyone is accounted for.
I'm now joined by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Glenn Lewis, the mayor of Moore.
Governor, thank you so much for being here.
GOV. MARY FALLIN (R), OKLAHOMA: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Really appreciate it.
FALLIN: Appreciate you being here.
COOPER: Mr. Mayor, as well, thank you so much for being here.
MAYOR GLENN LEWIS, MOORE, OKLAHOMA: Thank you. Appreciate it.
COOPER: As you look at what's happened today, the recovery efforts, the rescue efforts, how are things going?
FALLIN: Well, things are going well. You know, under the circumstances, we feel good about our efforts. We're very appreciative of the people who have worked very long hours under very stressful circumstances and we have a great ground game basically, and we have a command unit and they are communicating very well. They're very highly organized. We've been through a couple of these disasters before and that's the key to it is having communication, having collaboration not only with the local people but the state and the federal and certainly with the charities themselves.
COOPER: At this point, Mr. Mayor, do you feel like -- are there still people missing? Where do things stand, do you know?
LEWIS: As far as we know there's not. We checked the areas with thermal imagers as well as gone door-to-door. So we feel like we're fixing to go from rescue and searching to recovery at this point so --
COOPER: So I mean, you think the death toll as it is, you think that's likely to stay --
LEWIS: I think that will stand, yes, sir. We believe it will.
COOPER: Where are the needs now? What do you need?
FALLIN: Well, the needs are right now certainly counseling for those that lost loved ones. We've heard some traumatic stories. You just met two American heroes, the teacher and her husband, looking for his wife.
COOPER: Yes. Yes.
FALLIN: And the teacher that saved the children. And that's a hero story. It's a feel-good story, and it's one that gives us some hope and encouragement during a time of such great tragedy in this community.
COOPER: And we -- we've heard so many people -- so many people are banding together in this community.
FALLIN: Well, that's what Oklahoma is about. And we have great people and I know we're going to make it through this even stronger. We persevere, we're resilient, we believe in helping our neighbors and as you heard the story of people coming out of the community itself and just walking up and going to the school, going door to door. Even though they may have just lost everything, they were out helping their fellow man.
COOPER: In this area that has experienced storms before, do authorities need to relook at zoning, at mandating storm shelters in all schools? Because new schools have them but it's older schools that do not, correct?
FALLIN: Right. Right. We have some older schools that don't have storm shelters but we certainly have made great effort. The local communities have that decision that they can make to build storm shelters. We actually had a tornado that passed here a couple of years ago and a school had put in a storm room in their school, and they all hovered there and they were fine after the school got destroyed.
So we know that we need to have a plan. We do have plans. The teachers followed those plans. They got the kids to safety. They were alerted at the school, some schools were able to evacuate during that time and others that were left with children there at the school took the precautions to follow what they should do and saved some lives.
COOPER: Mr. Mayor, is that something you want to look at more closely, moving forward?
LEWIS: We actually -- after the last tornado, we did that. And all of the new schools that are now built in the city limits of Moore are basically required to have a storm shelter area. So we sort of did that, but you know it's like trying to get a swimsuit in a tsunami. It doesn't really work. You know for you. You can't really prepare for items like this.
LEWIS: And you know we just have to do our best. So they don't have seatbelts on school buses either.
LEWIS: And there's a lot of things you could look at for safety purposes but I don't think you can afford to cover everything. So that's kind of where we're at.
COOPER: Well, Governor, I appreciate you stopping by and just wish you the best in moving forward. A lot of folks are going to need a lot of help. And I hope you get it.
FALLIN: Yes. We are getting it. We're very grateful to other states that have come to help us. We're certainly grateful to the federal officials that have helped us with our emergency declaration and we're going to get back on our feet. We're going to get this community what it needs, get people what they need. And it's going to take awhile to recover but we will come back strong.
COOPER: Mr. Mayor, as well, wish you the best.
LEWIS: Appreciate it. Thank you so much.
COOPER: Thank you so much. Thank you, Governor. Appreciate it.
Mayor Lewis, we want to thank the mayor and the governor for taking the time to talk to us. Obviously been a busy 24, 36 hours for them. For more on the story go to our Web site CNN.com.
Up next, we're going to hear from the heartbroken family of 9- year-old, (INAUDIBLE). A third grader at Plaza Towers Elementary School. She did not survive the tornado. I talked to her father who wants you to know about his vibrant little girl.
COOPER: Well, it's one of the most heartbreaking images of this tragedy. Fields of rubble where just yesterday, block after block of houses stood. I mean, look around here, as far as the eye can see. Just houses have been leveled. Neighborhoods wiped out by this tornado. The homes were no match for winds that topped out around 200 miles per hour and for many to ride out the twister reaching a storm shelter often meant the difference between life and death.
We just spoke to the mayor of Moore and the governor of Oklahoma about shelters and why they aren't more widespread. Gary Tuchman is also here with us in Moore. He's at one of those personal shelters. Now Gary, explain how it works, what it looks like.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the people who lived in this house that was destroyed survived. They survived because they left well in advance. But if they did not leave well in advance, they would have survived also because they had this heavy metal storm shelter.
I want to show you how it works. You open the door and you take a look inside. You see it's very cramped inside. There's not much room, but plenty of room to survive. Walk down the steps with your family, you can probably fit seven or eight people and important things in here, clothing, pictures, valuables.
You come in and then you just shut the door and you are safe and sound as a tornado goes above you. There's no doubt the people would have survived if they went inside this shelter. When the storm's over, you open it up and you all come out. One thing to keep in mind, you may say wow, rubble falls on this, how do you get out.
You don't lift it up. You slide it and you slide it under here. If the rubble does fall on top of here, lots of rubble, you may not be able to slide it, but then you are alive and presumably you have told your relatives that you're in here and they told rescuers and they come and rescue you.
One thing you might wonder, why don't schools in the tornado belt in Oklahoma and Texas and Kansas all have storm shelters, all have basements. Well, it's not a law and the fact is many school districts say it's just not economically feasible to have these. They cost several thousand dollars, these personal shelters -- Anderson.
COOPER: That's why a lot of individual homes don't have them as well. It is costly for families.
TUCHMAN: Absolutely. But there are some homes here in Oklahoma that we've seen with even bigger shelters, they cost tens of thousands of dollars and you can put several families in them. They're not to be confused with survivalist shelters. We have also done stories on those on AC 360 and people have stuff they can live for years under ground. These are not designed for years. They are designed for one tornado event.
COOPER: What about flooding? Because, I mean, that can be an issue when you're underground like that.
TUCHMAN: Right. I mean, that's why a lot of people, you would think that here in Oklahoma where there are so many tornadoes, lots of people would have basements. The fact is Oklahoma has fewer basements than lots of other states that don't have very many tornadoes because there's a big flooding problem in this state.
A lot of families think it's very unlikely we're going to get hit by a tornado, but very likely we will get flooding. We don't want a flooded basement and we don't have a basement. That's the case here. A lot of people don't have basements. They don't have these shelters. That's why there are so many people in danger if a tornado does indeed strike their home.
COOPER: All right, Gary, appreciate that look. Thanks.
Charles Gafford was one of the lucky ones to reach a storm shelter in time. When the twister hit, he grabbed his camera and recorded some pretty extraordinary video, giving us a ground level view of the tornado. We saw a bit of it at the top of the program. He captured the scene as the twister threw debris and branches past his shelter door. That's the view from the shelter.
Charles Gafford joins me now live on the phone. So first of all, how are you doing, Charles?
CHARLES GAFFORD, TORNADO SURVIVOR (via telephone): I'm doing all right and still a little bit shaken up after everything, of course, but myself, my family and all my friends, they made out all right.
COOPER: As we're watching the video now, we're seeing all this debris passing right over the storm shelter, what was going through your mind? What did it feel like?
GAFFORD: It was so intense. I can't begin to describe the feeling. But I was more worried about where it was really hitting which was the school that was directly in front of us. It was basically just waiting for it to get by so we could try and help as much as we could.
Right after we got out of the shelter, we raced over to the Briarwood Elementary to try to help some kids. We got there and immediately, there were just kids screaming, crying, not knowing what to do, not knowing where their parents were at.
And there were even some people trapped under rubble, we were trying to help them get out. But it's just crazy because there's not a whole lot you can do when you don't have equipment right after it happens.
COOPER: Yes. And thankfully, everyone at Briarwood was OK. How much warning did you have personally that the storm was about to hit?
GAFFORD: I'd say we had about 20 minutes. There had been rumors all day that there was going to be a tornado, but when we knew that it was headed our direction, we could pretty much already see it on the horizon. So we had the storm shelter ready.
COOPER: We can see a house kind of peeking out part of the shelter. Did that house make it?
GAFFORD: The house made it pretty well. I mean, there's a lot of damage to the roof. The windows were busted out. But further down the left side of the street, there were some that were completely wiped out and once you go on the back side of their fence, everything's just completely flat.
COOPER: And once the tornado passed, you came out of the shelter, what is that moment like? What do you see all around you?
GAFFORD: It's like a war zone. It's ridiculous. It's just hard to believe that something like that could just happen. I mean, that was the first tornado I had ever seen in person, and I had been in Oklahoma for over 10 years. COOPER: Well, Charles, I'm glad you're doing OK and that the house is OK and you had the presence of mind to seek shelter. Appreciate you talking to us. Thank you, Charles.
Just ahead, what the family of 9-year-old Jenae Hornsby wants you to know about the daughter that they loved so much and the daughter that they lost last night.
COOPER: Sometimes it's hard to tell what you're seen looking at. This is obviously now a car but it's just completely been crushed and it's really only when you get up closer that you kind of realize OK, here's the engine, this is the front of the vehicle. It's just completely demolished.
Just as you kind of get used to seeing that, you turn around, here's a car that's been slammed into a concrete structure. It's almost upside down, basically just been picked up by the power of the wind and just slammed in here.
There are so many vehicles like that, just block after block. Some of them kind of fused together by the power of the wind. One of the families in mourning here tonight in Moore, Oklahoma is the Hornsby family, 9-year-old Jenae Hornsby was a third grader at Plaza Towers Elementary. She didn't survive the storm.
I want to show you how energetic Jenae was, how full of life. This is home video with family they wanted us to share with you. Her dad is a veteran of the Iraq war. I had a chance to speak with him earlier today at Mount Trinity Baptist Church along with Jenae's aunt, Angela.
COOPER: When you first saw her, what did you think?
JOSHUA HORNSBY, JENAE'S FATHER: My heart just sank and I started worrying and panicking. I just needed to find my baby. I just kept waiting and hoping that I would find her. I was looking through the other kids that already had gotten out and just waiting.
COOPER: When did you get word about her?
JOSHUA HORNSBY: This morning.
COOPER: Where were you? What happened?
JOSHUA HORNSBY: I was at First Baptist Church. They had opened a shelter for parents that hadn't found their kids.
COOPER: What do you want people to know about your daughter?
JOSHUA HORNSBY: Just she was the best kid anybody could have. She was -- she was Jenae. She was, you know, a ball of energy, a ball of love. COOPER: Your face lights up when you are saying her name.
JOSHUA HORNSBY: That's my baby.
COOPER: You're nodding your head.
ANGELA HORNSBY, JENAE'S AUNT: Because, I mean, there is no other kid like her. We're a unique bunch and she is all of our uniqueness balled up into one and I mean, she's the sweetest thing, the bossiest thing, the most fun, always trying to make us laugh and just a sweet baby, sweet baby.
COOPER: Does it seem real yet?
JOSHUA HORNSBY: No. It still isn't sunk in. I'm still hoping, you know, for that call to say we made a mistake. I just pray that that's what it is. That's all I can hope for, but just got to take it as it is.
COOPER: How do you face something like this?
JOSHUA HORNSBY: Just got to face it minute by minute, day by day. There's no way to face it. Just got to be strong and carry on.
COOPER: Does it seem real to you?
ANGELA HORNSBY: At moments. You know, when it hurts, it feels real. But then when I can laugh and talk, it's not real anymore, not something that happened. It hurts and the pain is real. The pain is real and I have a daughter who is 14.
COOPER: How did you tell your daughter?
ANGELA HORNSBY: Honestly, I broke down and she was nearby and I don't think she knew was it a relief sob or a pained sob, and then she asked me is she OK and I told her she didn't make it.
JOSHUA HORNSBY: Life is not fair. You just got to take what life gives you, you know what I mean? I can sit and dwell on it and you know, let it ruin me or I can, you know, make my baby proud and keep pushing on like I know she would want me to do.
COOPER: He wants to make his baby proud. The Hornsby family like all the families here who are suffering so much loss are in our thoughts and our prayers tonight, and in the difficult days ahead. More than 200 people have been injured in this storm.
In a moment I will talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the types of injuries that doctors are treating and dealing with. He talks to a doctor in charge of the emergency room at Moore Medical Center, which was right in the path of the tornado.
Also, very touching moment in the middle of the rubble, an elderly woman here in Moore whose home was destroyed, still says her prayers were answered. We'll tell you why and what she found in the rubble.
COOPER: Welcome back. Disaster survivors sometimes find small miracles in a sea of utter devastation. Barbara Garcia's home was destroyed by the tornado. When it struck she took cover in her bathroom holding on to her dog. She got tossed around as her house collapsed around her. Fortunately, she's OK.
But as Barbara lifted herself out of the rubble she called for her dog, got no answer. Look at what happened as she was being interviewed this morning live on national TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you -- what do you think of all this? This is your neighborhood. I can't imagine.
BARBARA GARCIA, TORNADO SURVIVOR: This is life in the big city.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The dog, the dog, the dog. Hi, puppy. It's a dog!
GARCIA: Bless your little bitty heart. Help me, Babsy! Come on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get him?
GARCIA: Well, God just answered one prayer, let me be OK. He answered both of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That video was from CBS, just incredible, small moment, something to smile about today on what has been a very difficult day. We hope that dog is OK. It was able to walk on its own. Obviously a lot of people have suffered and have been injured.
This morning, the Oklahoma office of Emergency Management said that more than 230 people have been hurt and one place the injured would have been taken was Moore Medical Center, but the hospital was in the path of the tornado when it hit town. Take a look that. It sustained a lot of damage. It looks like the facade was completely ripped off.
Today, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta caught up with Dr. Stephanie Barnhart who is in charge of the emergency room at Moore when the disaster struck. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You were the E.R. doc on call in a hospital that was in the middle of one of the biggest tornadoes in U.S. history, and everybody did well inside your hospital. How are you feeling about that today? DR. STEPHANIE BARNHART, MOORE MEDICAL CENTER: I don't think it's hit me, really. I still just can't feel like I can take any credit for that. Like I said, I was just doing my job and knew what I had to do. But I can't even imagine, I can't even, you know, it is, it's very emotional because I'm like wow, everybody was, you know, did get out. Yes. Words can't even describe, you know, how I feel. I do keep getting a lot of thank you's.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Sanjay joins me now. She should be getting a lot of thank you's. We were over there earlier today. That medical center is ripped apart.
GUPTA: The entire second floor is essentially gone. You know, she got very little notice. She was watching television, she said, throughout the afternoon and then there was an all call that basically said it's coming. She heard it and at that point, they started to do their thing as she put it, which was to take people to the center of the hospital.
I think what was interesting is that they have a lot of tornadoes here so people sort of have more of a reflexive action in this sort of situation. But they were taking mattresses off the gurneys in the hallways and throwing them on patients' heads to try to prevent head injuries, one of the biggest concerns, shrapnel flying around in a situation like that. The doctors describe people walked out without a scratch despite what you saw in the building.
COOPER: It is often puncture wounds and other things we don't necessarily associate with a tornado.
GUPTA: Yes. You have the wind, obviously, and you can get the primary force from that, but the secondary wave of injuries, shrapnel, anything, all these things behind us can potentially be a source of a penetrating injury. A third wave is when bodies are actually moving against unmovable objects like walls and things.
But it's the second -- that secondary wave they're most concerned about. They did see people who have been impaled, who had crush injuries. Happily, they didn't see as many brain or head injuries as they have in the past.
COOPER: It is extraordinary when you see the wide swath of this tornado, the death toll is 24 people, 24 people is a horrific death toll by any estimate, but given the power of the storm and just what we see all around us, it's kind of extraordinary.
GUPTA: All the doctors have echoed that exact same thing. You can look at the buildings, even the hospitals as it turns out, and initially I thought it was going to be much worse. As you know, the numbers were sort of given to be much higher, as high as 51. What is interesting, I've seen this in other sort of disasters, sometimes you can literally have double counting. You have two different organizations that are both counting the dead and they're not necessarily communicating so all of a sudden, the numbers go double. COOPER: I think maybe that's what happened because I talked to the spokesperson from the medical examiner last night in the 8:00 or maybe 10:00 hour. She said we have confirmed more than 50 fatalities, I think it was or 48 fatalities and clearly, that was really double what the actual number is.
GUPTA: Right. They were hearing from two different organizations that were basically counting the same patients. Almost double essentially so it was a bit of good news. Usually it goes the other way, where they undercount it. But in this case, if there was any good news, the numbers were a lot lower.
COOPER: That's certainly true. Sanjay, appreciate it. Thanks. Glad you're here as well. We'll be right back more from Moore in a moment.
COOPER: It's been a tough day here for a lot of people, for many other than yesterday. It's the worst day imaginable. For some, tears of relief. We've tried to capture that day in sound and pictures. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we got here, what we saw was unbelievable. The debris field was so high and so far and so wide, wounded people walking around the streets. You know, they were walking wounded. They were bloody. I mean, they were people that had stuff sticking out of them from things that were flying around in the air. There were cars crumpled up like little toys and thrown on top of buildings, buildings that were two and three stories tall that were leveled. It was devastating.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms and bedrooms and classrooms, and in time, we're going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our people can pull together. They'll find the inner courage, their strength through prayer and neighbors are out helping fellow neighbors and we'll take care of our people. We certainly have the best first responders and emergency personnel I think in the nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a battle zone. There's nothing standing, no trees, no houses anywhere around, no landmarks. You don't even know where you are, where you're standing over there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we've really processed what's truly happened. We're just trying to salvage everything we can. Basically what we can carry out. We can't get a vehicle in here. We're just trying to get everything we can carry out, pictures, keepsakes, mementos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little kids, families with their homes gone, lot of people around here don't have insurance in this neighborhood. A lot of people do but there were a lot of people that don't. Where do they go from here? Just got to get up and figure out a way.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Oklahoma. When a neighbor is hurt, you don't ask what they need. You invite them in and help them. That is what we do.
COOPER: God bless Moore. That's this edition of 360 for us. We'll be back one hour from now, another live edition of 360 here from Moore, Oklahoma. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.