Skip to main content

Mother's instinct saves lives of 3 sons as tornado approached home

By Michael Martinez, CNN
May 23, 2013 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Terimy Miller puts her three small sons in the house closet as the tornado nears
  • But she gets a feeling: "I just got to get out of here. I'm not chancing this."
  • The mother drives her boys away from the house in Moore, Oklahoma
  • The home's eventual obliteration confirms she made the right decision

(CNN) -- Call it maternal instinct.

As the monster tornado approached, Terimy Miller put her three sons in a closet in their Moore, Oklahoma, house.

But something didn't feel right.

"It was just that feeling," Miller told CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Wednesday. "I just got to get out of here. I'm not chancing this."

An aerial view of the destruction caused by the massive tornado that struck areas south of Oklahoma City on Monday, May 20, shows the magnitude of damage left in its path. The storm's winds topped 200 mph as it carved a 17-mile path of destruction through Oklahoma City suburbs. On Tuesday, May 21, CNN sent photographer David McNeese to capture the story from above: An aerial view of the destruction caused by the massive tornado that struck areas south of Oklahoma City on Monday, May 20, shows the magnitude of damage left in its path. The storm's winds topped 200 mph as it carved a 17-mile path of destruction through Oklahoma City suburbs. On Tuesday, May 21, CNN sent photographer David McNeese to capture the story from above:
The path of destruction from above
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
>
>>
Photos: Destruction from above Photos: Destruction from above
A message is left by a homeowner who lost his home in the May 20 tornado on Monday, May 27, in Moore, Oklahoma. View more photos of the aftermath in the region and another gallery of aerial shots of the damage. A message is left by a homeowner who lost his home in the May 20 tornado on Monday, May 27, in Moore, Oklahoma. View more photos of the aftermath in the region and another gallery of aerial shots of the damage.
Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma City area
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma Photos: Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma
Husband ripped away from wife in tornado
Comfort dogs help with healing

So she put her three boys -- ages 11, 7 and 6 -- in the family car.

She was moving so fast that she couldn't round up the two family dogs, which were somewhere outside.

Doctor's quick thinking save patients

As they prepared their escape, she and son Jules heard a local weatherman on television advise families in Moore that if they didn't have a storm shelter, they should abandon the house.

"We got away from the storm," said son Jules, 7.

Confirmation of the mother's intuition came when she and her boys returned to the house.

Miller hyperventilated. She cried.

Opinion: Helping kids recover and feel safe

The tornado had annihilated the home.

"We walk up and it's gone," Miller said. "I'm like, no, this can't be happening. Why?

"It's a war zone," she said.

Added her son: "The thunderstorm took away all my favorite stuff. It's gone."

Families remember Oklahoma tornado victims

Miller lost the sentimental photos, yearbooks, and mementos from her days in the Navy. Her memories will now have to suffice, she said.

As for the dogs, they survived, but one of them will lose his right eye, injured by the twister.

Despite the material losses, Miller counts her blessings.

"We're lucky: I have my children and everything will be OK," she said.

The family will rebuild the home, she added.

Storm-scattered mementos finding their homes via Facebook

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Oklahoma City Tornadoes
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1730 GMT (0130 HKT)
Max Broderick remembers exactly what he did a year ago Tuesday.
June 3, 2013 -- Updated 1358 GMT (2158 HKT)
Heavy storms and tornadoes once again ripped through the Midwest. Already devastated areas of Oklahoma were hit again, and this time the damage spread to neighboring states. Here's how you can help.
May 30, 2013 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
Families share memories and snapshots of those we lost in the Oklahoma tornado devastation.
June 5, 2013 -- Updated 1711 GMT (0111 HKT)
The Oklahoma medical examiner's office says 18 people in that state were killed in the storms. The office has released the names of 11.
June 4, 2013 -- Updated 1358 GMT (2158 HKT)
They chased tornadoes not so much for the thrill, but in the hope that their research might help people avoid the fate to which they succumbed last week.
June 4, 2013 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A menacing tornado churned behind Mike Eilts as the storm chaser's truck sped away.
May 27, 2013 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Why do people in Tornado Alley keep rebuilding and staying in place after storms rip through? People from Moore share their reasons why.
May 27, 2013 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
See the best images from the deadly storm.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
It's one of the most familiar pieces of advice from authorities to people in the path of a tornado: Get into your basement.
May 23, 2013 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
On Sunday, a mystery photograph fluttered from the sky and landed near Leslie Hagelberg's mailbox in West Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The tornado spanned 1.3 miles -- the length of more than 22 football fields lined up end-to-end -- carved a 17-mile path of destruction.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Second-grade teacher Tammy Glasgow walks around what's left of Briarwood Elementary, struggling to pick out of its wreckage the things that once made a school.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
It was the end of the school day. The kids at Plaza Towers Elementary School were stuffing their backpacks, looking forward to going home, playing with friends, eating snacks.
April 27, 2014 -- Updated 1531 GMT (2331 HKT)
The "Tri-State Tornado" killed 695 people and injured 2,027, traveling more than 300 miles.
See the path of the tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma.
ADVERTISEMENT