Highland East teacher relives day of storm

Posted on: 11:06 pm, May 28, 2013, by

MOORE, Okla. – With an EF-5 tornado bearing down, schools had to react fast last week.

Seven children died at Plaza Towers Elementary during the Moore tornado.

So many others were saved, thanks to the heroics of their teachers.

Highland East Junior High was also hit.

While the main building was spared any major damage, twisted metal and bricks are all that remain of a couple of detached classrooms and the field house.

The school gymnasium was ripped apart by the tornado that hit May 20.

Highland East teacher Cynthia Garten said, “I was in shock for two days. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t eat.”

Cynthia took us back to what used to be her classroom.

She said the day of the storm when the sirens sounded she, two other teachers and about 20 students all rushed to the gymnasium with no idea what was headed their way.

Cynthia said, “I’ve never in all the years I’ve taught, it’s always been a drill.”

This time it was not a drill; she and the seventh and eighth graders took cover in a locker room.

She said it all seemed unreal until the principal came over the speaker and said to take cover.

As it hit one of her students began to yell.

Cynthia said, “He was yelling, ‘It’s here. It’s here,’ and I said, ‘We’re fine.’ And he said, ‘We’re going to get sucked out.’ I said, ‘It’s fine.’ But you don’t know that. There’s that moment of not knowing that when you feel things hitting us.”

Minutes later they were able to walk out unharmed, though everything around them was torn to pieces.

Cynthia said, “The shear thought that wall was the only thing between us; I process it more every day.”

Cynthia said while the drills did prepare them to take cover, she’s not sure there is any training that could have prepared them for the destruction they saw as they walked out of the building.