Plaza Towers Elementary was devastatingly reduced to ruins on Monday after a F5 tornado carrying 200 mile per hour winds tore directly through the 440-student school in Moore, Oklahoma. Students and teachers took cover in the hallways and bathrooms of the school, but tragically, not all made it out alive. Here’s what you need to know about the destruction that hit Plaza Towers Elementary.
1. Seven Children Drowned
The Oklahoma state medical examiner’s office confirmed Monday night that 9 of the 24 people that died after the tornado ripped through Moore were children. According to NBC News, seven of those children were found beneath the destruction at Plaza Towers Elementary drowned in a pool of water.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin called it a “terrible, terrible day for Oklahoma.”
“Our hearts are just broken for the parents,” Fallin said at the briefing. “Our prayers are with you. We are working as quickly as we can to get through the debris and answer some questions about where loved ones are.”
2. At Least Two Dozen Children Are Unaccounted For
As of Tuesday morning, CBS News reports that about two dozen children are still left unaccounted for. Several surviving children were rescued from underneath the Plaza Towers Elementary rubble as rescue teams desperately searched for victims. Parents of the children were taken to a church where they waited to hear if their own had survived or not.
3. Students in Kindergarten Through Third Grade Took Shelter in the School
A woman carries a child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Oklahoma twitter.com/Mirror_Picture…
— Mirror Pictures (@Mirror_Pictures) May 21, 2013
Students in the fourth through sixth grades were evacuated to a nearby church, but students in kindergarten through the third grade remained in the school where they took shelter. James Rushing, who lives across the street, ran to the school thinking it would be safer than his own home.
“About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart,” he told The Associated Press.
4. Teachers Shielded Students With Their Bodies
— ABC News (@ABC) May 21, 2013
One man told reporters how he and others pulled a car off of a teacher in front of the school and found her with three children that she had covered with her body. Another teacher told KFOR that she shielded several children in a restroom to keep them save as the tornado slammed into the school.
5. The Tornado Hit Another Elementary School
Plaza Towers Elementary was not the only school destroyed in Moore. Briarwood Elementary was also left in ruins Monday night, but there were fortunately no reports of casualties.