PIEDMONT, Okla. — No amount of training could prepare first responders for what they’d encounter at Falcon Lake.
The Piedmont community was in the bullseye of a massive, EF-5 tornado May 24, 2011.
Police, EMSA medics and fire fighters were there within minutes to find dozens of anonymous heroes already hard at work.
Oklahoma City Police Lieutenant, Issac Goodman, said,”I was very amazed at the volunteers out there. They were hollering that they had someone who needed help.”
Those screams were coming from Catherine Hamil who’d taken shelter under a mattress, in a bathtub with her three babies.
The children were carried away, mom was trapped under the debris.
Their home was at the end of the cul-de-sac, almost impossible to reach.
There were live power lines, broken trees and frantic survivors everywhere.
Goodman said, “I got a running start and went through a ditch parallel to the road and got back there.”
The OKC cop was among the first to arrive.
He used his police cruiser as a makeshift stretcher to carry the pregnant mother to a waiting ambulance.
He remembers, “It was very emotional. It’s going to stick in my memory forever.”
Others tended to the twister’s youngest casualties.
Their broken bodies were almost too much to handle.
EMSA medic, Kenny Waldrop said, “The fact that a child had endured that, I had to turn away and take a deep breath, focus on what was going on and what needed to be done here.”
First responders set aside the shock and fear to help so many others.
That’s what first responders do.
According to medic, Daniel King, “At that point in time, you don’t think about your own life. You think about the people who need help and that’s what we are here to do.”
Ryan and Cole Hamil died that day.
But Catherine, her unborn child, and 5-year-old daughter, Cathleen, survived.
It was a small comfort to medics like Waldrop, “It just gives you chills. It makes you feel good inside to know we were able to help.”