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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
2,400 Homes Damaged by Oklahoma Tornado; Storm Chaser Pulls 15 from Rubble; Story of Survival, Reunion; Hospital Took Direct Hit by Tornado; Briarwood Teachers Protected Students; Neighbors Comfort Boy in Tornado Aftermath; Rescue Dogs Sniff for Survivors
Aired May 21, 2013 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We'll be back here in Moore, Oklahoma, tomorrow night. ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT starts now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, we're going to go live to Moore, Oklahoma, a city devastated by the monster tornado. The death toll dramatically changing over night. We know why.
Plus, amid the death, the destruction, remarkable moments of heroism and sacrifice. We'll bring you one of the most incredible stories, next.
And the picture that has become an image, a symbol of hope for people around the world. You're going to meet that man and that little boy tonight.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
I'm Erin Burnett, and OUTFRONT tonight, we have a special live edition of OUTFRONT. Breaking news. New numbers just coming in tonight from the Oklahoma Emergency Management Office. We have learned that 2400 homes have been damaged by the tornado in the Oklahoma City area. 10,000 have been directly affected by the storm. The mayor of Moore tells CNN the city has now gone from, quote, "rescue and searching to recovery."
Now the death toll from the tornado now stands at 24, dramatically lower than officials had first indicated. But the number is still tragic. Nine children have lost their lives.
And tonight, we're learning a little bit more about those children, Jenay (ph) Hornsby. She was nine years old and her father remembered her as a ball of energy, a ball of love. Jenay (ph) died along with six of her classmates at the Plaza Towers Elementary School. And that building is now almost completely flattened. But the stories of those who did survive are today just starting to be heard.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I had to hold onto a wall to keep myself safe because I didn't want to fly away in the tornado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to pull a car out of a front hall way off a teacher. I don't know what that lady's name is, but she had three little kids underneath her. Good job, teach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Teachers, heroes at another local elementary school named Briarwood (ph) was also reduced to rubble. That was where actually they were first able to determine the speed of the storm and how fast it was. But, miraculously, every single person out there made it alive.
More than 100 people had been pulled alive from the 1,700 miles of the rubble left behind by the tornado. Cadaver dogs were out helping in the recovery efforts today as well. You're going to meet one of them later this hour.
And some residents risked downed power lines to try to pick through their homes.
Now, we want to show you this video that we were able to obtain. This is shot from inside a car. You can see the storm, debris flying around. You can see those little black pieces flicking. It's like soot. They're actually giant pieces of wood and buildings.
Last today, we were learned the storm was even stronger than we first thought, in fact, the most powerful that a tornado can be. The National Weather Service now says that peak winds were 200 and 210 miles per hour. Last night, we were telling you they could have been between 166 and 200. So from the low end to where we are now, a significant difference in wind speed.
Gary Tuchman is in Moore, Oklahoma.
Gary, what is the latest on the recovery efforts there tonight? Earlier in the evening you were speaking to the lieutenant governor and the mayor of Moore and they're saying, look, we think, we hope, that we have accounted for everyone.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, I think the headline of the story right now is that the death toll is not higher. 24 is a horrible number, it's a terrible tragedy that 24 people have died. But the mayor says he hopes it doesn't go higher than 24. And I've seen damage in similar tornadoes, for example, what we saw in Joplin two years ago, where 159 people died. This is similar damage. I would not have been surprised at all if you were talking about 100, 200, 300 people dying here. So the fact that it's 24 is a bit surprising. Tragic, but it could have been much higher.
Also, you were talking about the 2,400 homes that were damaged or destroyed. What I can tell you is a great number of those 2,400 were destroyed, not just damaged. It's very extensive, the damage and the devastation that we're seeing here.
Today was a day when a lot of people returned to their homes, homes that are no more.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TUCHMAN (voice-over): A cold downpour accompanied residents of Moore, Oklahoma, as they returned to their destroyed homes for the first time since the tornado. Patterson Drive looked nothing like they remembered it.
ALISSA THOMPSON, HOME DESTROYED BY TORNADO: On the way here, I've seen so much other damage. Pardon me for this.
TUCHMAN: Alissa lived here with her husband, two small children and two dogs. They evacuated but left the dogs behind.
THOMPSON: You're in our bedroom.
TUCHMAN (on camera): This is the bedroom?
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The damage is devastating. But there is so much gratitude in this family they weren't hurt and that their dogs survived.
(on camera): Where did you find your dogs?
THOMPSON: Inside the bathtub, right by the toilet.
TUCHMAN: So they survived by jumping in the bathtub?
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Josephine Martin and Desiree Smith are step sisters, who lived I this hour on Patterson Drive with their father.
JOSEPHINE MARTIN, HOUSE DESTROYED BY TORNADO: Walking down the street, we couldn't tell which house was ours. We had to use the street numbers.
This was our porch. This was the main entrance. This was the kitchen.
TUCHMAN (on camera): This is your bedroom?
MARTIN: Yes, this is my bedroom. Mainly, it seemed like the back wall was what was ripped away on my window sill. My closet is perfectly in tact. A lot of my stuff on my dresser, everything just seemed to be kind of -- was crushed by the ceiling.
TUCHMAN: There are dozens and dozens of Patterson Drives throughout Moore, Oklahoma. Streets that were decimated in less than one minute. Streets full of residents who now have to start over.
(voice-over): Alissa Thompson recognizes that, but also knows that some things can never be replaced.
THOMPSON: All of our photo albums, they were in our living room that we can't even get to right now.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Where is your living room?
THOMPSON: Over there underneath her roof.
TUCHMAN: Maybe you'll be able to get the photo albums.
THOMPSON: I'm hoping so. We've got to get that roof moved.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): And just before we left Alissa's home --
THOMPSON: Yeh! That's my engagement photos. I feel great.
TUCHMAN: One nice moment in an otherwise dreadful day after.
TUCHMAN: We see it time and time again when we cover tornadoes and hurricanes. You'd expect sometimes people would run back to their houses and look for TVs or their expensive clothing. But what people look for, we see it all of the time, the mementoes, the heirlooms, the books, the historical books they have in their families that they've handed down, and definitely those pictures. That's the human spirit -- Erin?
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Gary.
Jerry Lojka joins me now from the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
Jerry, I just want to ask you, just getting the latest situation update from your office. Again, this tragic news is still 24 fatalities, 237 injuries. But I guess, let me just start with that question then, about the fatalities because the numbers, last night, they were saying 51 and there were reports of nearly 100. Do you feel confident that it is 24 and that this number is not going to go up?
JERRY LOJKA, OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: To be honest with you, I wish I could give you something concrete. We hope that it remains at 24. But until the medical examiner releases that officially, we're not going to be able to confirm that one way or the other.
BURNETT: And from your perspective and the Department of Emergency Management and what you've been dealing with, the significant discrepancies throughout the tragedy as to the number of those who lost their lives, has that confusion made your job more difficult?
LOJKA: You know, we really try not to focus on the numbers that are coming in. We know that everything is volatile. Everything that's happening is preliminary. We take the information from the rescuers and try to distill that so it becomes accurate for us. But our duty as far as giving resources and to focus on the rescuers to help them accomplish their mission doesn't really change. So we just focus on the task at hand. BURNETT: And I know that you have been doing that for years, 30 years you were a firefighter in this district, during the 1999 tornado that so many have talked about. Now to this one, in terms of its path. You were at the fire Department. This storm, so many people I've spoken to, storm chasers there, people who live there, say this is unprecedented in terms of the damage. Is that also what you think, Jerry? You've never seen anything worse?
LOJKA: I try not to compare. I mean, I look at the amount of damage that was done in '99. And we've done an overlay that this tornado follow up and you look at nothing that's left but a foundation, and you set those side-by-side and they look so much similar that it's really difficult to differentiate. It's just unbelievable that a house can be nothing left but a foundation. And that's what happened in '99 also. This is very comparable.
BURNETT: All right. Jerry, thank you very much again for taking the time. I know you and your team have really not been able to sleep. So, thank you.
Now, tonight, we are getting a better look at the devastation that Jerry is talking about, left behind from the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. And as we just learned, 2,400 homes are damaged.
Our Brian Todd is OUTFRONT. He went through the area today in Moore, the stricken area, with the city's mayor.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We drove passed blocks and blocks of shredded homes, mangled cars and fallen power lines. This is just one of the devastated neighborhoods in Moore, Oklahoma.
The mayor, Glenn Lewis, showed us some of the hardest hit areas. He's trying to get a scope of the destruction in the town he's lived in all of his life.
(on camera): How overwhelmed do you feel right now with all this?
GLENN LEWIS, MAYOR OF MOORE, OKLAHOMA: Pretty overwhelmed. It's going to be a mess to clean this up. But we'll do it.
TODD (voice-over): Mayor Lewis took us to the ruins of the Moore Medical Center where a pregnant woman went into labor when the storm hit.
A local councilman told us what happened next.
DAVID ROBERTS, MORE CITY COUNCILMAN: The doctor and nurse stayed with her and she completed the birthing process.
TODD (on camera): While this was going on?
TODD: And did they successfully get her and her child out of there? ROBERTS: Yes. As a matter of fact, they said there was absolutely no injuries to any of the patients or staff.
TODD (voice-over): Rescue and recovery teams have completed a sweep of the medical center and the parking lot that looks like a junk yard now.
(on camera): City officials say these "X"s on vehicles and other things mark the fact that there are no live bodies inside the structure. The mayor says that's doesn't mean there aren't any bodies underneath. And the mayor says that's why they have a canine teams are out still combing the wreckage for bodies.
(voice-over): There are some places in Moore that are still dangerous for us to get close to. Officials are urging residents to stay away from their homes for now so emergency workers can do their jobs and make sure no one else gets hurt.
GARY BIRD, MORE FIRE CHIEF: The biggest concern now for citizens and then for my men and all the people that have come in and help, just to be sure they're safe and be sure the citizens understand we're doing the best we can in getting there as fast as we can.
TODD: The fire chef says first responders are still working around the clock. He says they've made through most of the homes in Moore and says they'll go through every damaged property at least three times.
Brian Todd, CNN, Moore, Oklahoma.
BURNETT: And still to come in this live edition of OUTFRONT, Ben McMillan pulled 15 people out of a building toppled by a tornado, saving their lives. He comes OUTFRONT tonight.
Plus, Salsa, the dog, trying to save lives today.
BURNETT: Welcome back to a live edition of OUTFRONT. We're following the breaking news on the deadly tornado in Oklahoma. And tonight, as the victims and their neighbors are beginning the tremendous and monumental task of rebuilding their lives, we're hearing tales of heroism. Neighbors, first responders, and residents not even from Moore, are all coming to help those in need in the aftermath of the destruction.
And OUTFRONT tonight, I want to bring in Ben McMillan, a storm chaser and EMT.
Ben, you helped pull 15 people from a building that collapsed next to the hospital. I want to ask you about them. But when you first got there, what was the scene like? And could you hear people crying for help? BEN MCMILLAN, STORM CHASER & EMT: Boy, Erin, we followed the mile- wide tornado northbound of I-35. There was a bunch of debris showering down all over our vehicle. If that wasn't enough, we pulled up and saw a hospital had been leveled. At that point, with my EMT training, the best thing to do was to aid the victims. Fire crews weren't on scene yet because we were so close to the tornadic circulation that there was no time for them to get there. And there was a particular building between a bowling alley and the Moore Medical Center main structure that collapsed. It was a large concrete slab that fell on top of nurses and other medical staff. And when we first came on the scene, there was folks yelling for help and screaming that there was 18 people trapped. We were able to get a lot of them out. And it was truly a sight I hope I never see again in my life.
BURNETT: What was the condition of those people that you saw rescued?
MCMILLAN: Most people were not really willing or wanting to move. But we told them they had to get out. This was a very fluid situation. The concrete was shifting. In fact, there was so many bystanders that wanted to help, the concrete beams started to shift and the building started to collapse even more. In a situation like that, you want to get everybody out as fast as possible. It was a situation where we had to get them out as fast as possible. Some people were hesitant but it was a situation where we had to get them out quickly. As far as I know, everyone made it out OK.
BURNETT: As you say, thank god that you were there and able to help them with that concrete shifting and the first one there. And as you say, that's because you're a storm chaser. And I know obviously that's dangerous and something a lot of people obviously shouldn't and don't do.
But you've been chasing these storms since high school. Have you seen any anything like this one? And if not, what was it? At what moment did you realize this was different?
MCMILLAN: Erin, what happened over New Castle was I guess a typical tornado, if you can even call a tornado typical. We had a rope funnel come down, which happens several times a year in Oklahoma. But what happened in the next 10 minutes is what really made this storm historical. It went from that rope funnel to a mile-wide wedge in a very short amount of time. In 1999, when Moore was struck by the tornado, it was on the ground for several minutes coming up from the southwest towards the city, which allowed residents to have more warning. In this situation, the tornado formed almost right over the metro, really limiting lead time.
BURNETT: All right. That's just, as you describe it, incredible to imagine. And I know, as our Chad Myers talked about, just how quickly it got so big and so fast.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time.
And amidst all of the stories of death and destruction across Oklahoma City, there are remarkable stories of survival and reunion. Kyung Lah actually spent the day at Oklahoma University Medical Center and she met one family whose story will awe you.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They knew where it was going.
RICK ROBERTS, GRANDFATHER OF 3-YEAR-OLD SURVIVOR: If you could just see it pulling up everything and it was on a bee-line course straight toward this day care where my grandson was.
LAH: What was left of the day care is 3-year-old and 6-week-old boys inside.
ROBERTS: You can't look out and not bring the help. There's no way. I'm sorry.
LAH: Across town, his daughter, Janna, who rode out the tornado at school district headquarters where she works. She already knew Briarwood Elementary, next door to the day care, was flattened. For three hours, she was trapped behind live electrical wires desperately texting for news of her son.
JANNA KETCHIE, MOTHER OF 3-YEAR-OLD SURVIVOR: For thee hours I didn't hear anything. It was the longest three hours of my life, knowing I may never see them again. No mother should ever have to go through that. No.
DR. BOB LETTON, O.U. MEDICAL CENTER, PEDIATRIC TRAUMA: It's hard. And a lot of the kids we were seeing were school age, 18 years old.
LAH: Children were being rushed into Children's Hospital. 51 patients came into Dr. Bob Letton's trauma ward. But that wasn't the hard part of the night for him.
LETTON: Yeah, it's -- it hurts because you know, if they can get to you, they got a chance. But a lot of them never got here. And I'm not sure whether they need to be here or not.
LAH: In a stream of children in the emergency room, Little Grayson Ketchie, his ear hurts, a bad wound to his head. His baby brother --
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: That was my baby.
LAH (on camera): Your baby?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Yes.
LAH (voice-over): -- unscathed, because their day care teacher covered them with a mattress and her own body. Amazingly, no one in this day care center died.
ROBERTS: It's a miracle. It's an absolute miracle.
LAH: Grayson was a little bit shaken, as you might imagine. (on camera): What happened at day care?
GRAYSON KETCHIE, SURVIVED TORNADO AT DAY CARE: It broke.
LAH: It broke?
GRAYSON KETCHIE: Yeah.
LAH (voice-over): But he's quickly on the mend and ready to play.
(on camera): Oh, you got me.
(voice-over): One family's lucky turn, who understands there are so many neighbors who are not.
JANNA KETCHIE: I'm sorry. I will be praying for you and your family. That's all I can do.
BURNETT: Kyung, I know there were nearly 100 people taken to the O.U. Medical Center and the Children's Hospital, 51 children. What kinds of injuries are doctors are seeing with the children?
LAH: Doctors see the typical type of tornado injuries, Erin. They see the scrapes, impalements, spinal cord injuries. They also see various crush injuries. But if there is a silver lining, doctors were expecting multiple serious head traumas, serious head traumas. And, Erin, they didn't see that many this time. That's why they say that really, the little miracle they were talking about with this particular boy, I think it was on other children, as well.
BURNETT: It's just amazing. The miracle when you look at the devastation and the people affected and how many escaped.
Thank you very much, Kyung, and that anecdote. Just another example of those miracles.
And tonight, workers at the Moore Medical Center are counting their blessings after the tornado. The top floor of that building was absolutely torn off. The people in there, they had to completely evacuate in 200 mile-per-hour winds. You know, people who needed all kinds of support, people going into labor. No one though was injured. Another miracle. And patients have been moved to other hospitals.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT.
Sanjay, I know you had a chance to speak up -- to speak with Dr. Stephanie Barnhart. She was in charge of the emergency room at Moore when the disaster struck. I just want to play what she said to you when you asked her about it.
(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, DIRECTOR, MOORE MEDICAL CENTER EMERGENCY ROOM: I don't think it's hit me, really. I still don'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 -- it is, it's very emotional. It's as if I'm like, wow. Everybody did get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sanjay, it's incredible. She's so humble. So many seem so humble who did such amazing things.
GUPTA: Yeah, I mean, you know, she was very reluctant to take credit there, as you could tell, Erin. And by the way, she's 34 years old. And I expected this hardened trauma surgeon when I heard about the person who had essentially coordinated this effort there in the hospital. But she took charge. She took people into the center part of the hospital, which is what you're supposed to do. She also, along with others, was taking mattresses and putting them on their heads to try to prevent people from getting head injuries, as Kyung Lah was just talking about, from shrapnel, for example. And as a result -- and other doctors pointed this out to me -- the staff and the patients, nobody had a scratch on them at the end of that. Again, you saw those images. The second floor of the building was just torn right off. It could have gone in a much worse direction there.
BURNETT: And, Sanjay, it brings me to these things that are just so incredible that happened. There weren't the head injuries that you'd expect. That's just one example. That a whole hospital, a whole floor was torn off and everyone is OK. And entire school is leveled and everybody is able to get out of that school. Of course, there were lives lost, but not nearly as initially reported. Right? The coroner's office yesterday said it could have been as much as 100 people, and now it's only 24. What do you make about that dramatically changing number?
GUPTA: I've seen this once before, Eric, and I can tell you, the medical examiner's office usually is taking charge of this. It can be a touch task to figure out exactly how many lives were lost. It's tough emotional and it's just tough to do overall.
What can happen sometimes is you might have two different organizations, the medical examiner, M.E.'s office, and another organization that are both counting. And, as a result, there may be a lack of communication and, as a result, double counting. This was almost double the number. There's 24 lives lost. They said 51, almost exactly double. And I think it was that double counting again. It's an error. Often times, the error goes the other way and you have more deaths than you realize and that's obviously devastating. So if there's a bit of good news here, it's that it was actually fewer, a smaller number in this case. But that's typically what happens in this sort of case when you have an error like this.
BURNETT: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joining us there. As he said, so often it goes the other way. And this time, the miracle, that number was revised so dramatically lower.
When the tornado touched down, a number of teachers who risked their lives to save their students. You just heard there about the trauma surgeon who was putting mattresses over people's heads to try to prevent them from head injuries. Well, there were hero teachers throwing their bodies over children. And one of them shares their story, next.
And the image that has captured the hearts of so many around the world. This special relationship, the friendship between this man and this little boy. They're going to come OUTFRONT and talk about it, next.
BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories where we're focusing on reporting from the front lines. Our top story tonight, of course, the devastating aftermath of the tornado in Oklahoma.
We are also watching the IRS story. The official in charge of the division that targeted conservative groups says she's going to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination when she's supposed to appear before law makers tomorrow. Lois Lerner has already admitted publically to scrutinizing the groups. She made her intentions known in a letter to Representative Darryl Issa. Two Tea Party groups have filed lawsuits against the IRS alleging privacy violations and harassment. One of them, Through the Vote, wants damages of $85,000. Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, though, says these law suits are unlikely to succeed, and saying this is a political issue and will have a political resolution.
We have new developments coming in the crucial presidential election in Iran. The body that vets candidates has approved eight candidates to run for president. Absent from the list is the pretege of current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution says that was a long shot any way. The former Iranian president, Akbar Rasjani (ph) was also was left out. Consulting firm, Eurasia Group, says this likely means a more conservative player, closer to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini will likely be the next president. Now, the crucial first round of voting begins June 14th.
In a dramatic move made -- a statement made to jurors today, Jodi Arias spoke and she pleaded that her life be spared instead of asking the jury to sentence her to death. You may remember in an interview, right after she was found guilty, she said she wanted the death penalty. So she's apparently saying something different. She called the murder of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander the worst mistake she'd ever made and said she could be constructive in prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JODI ARIAS, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: There's a high rate of illiteracy in prison than in everyday society. I know that reading has enriched my life by expanding my knowledge base and opening my eyes to new worlds and different cultures. I can help other women become literate so they, too, can add that dimension to their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The big question is whether jurors will believe here. Our legal analyst, Paul Callan, says her enthusiasm in describing the things she could do in prison could backfire. The death penalty does remain on the table.
The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, defended the company's tax strategy on Capitol Hill. So there's a Senate panel that says Apple has been purposely avoiding billions and billions of dollars in taxes by shifting income to overseas subsidiaries. On the bag of the envelope, at least $30 billion. Cook claims the strategy is legal. He says the company pays an effective tax rate of 30.5 percent. But I want to emphasize that figure is based on the profits the company earns in the United States. What Apple does, as you know, given all of its success, is make money all over the world and keep that money overseas, about $100 billion of it in countries like Ireland where tax rates can be as low as 12, 12.5 percent. Nicholas Thompson, of the "New Yorker," says the company that has done great things for our economy has also shown it's at creative at dodging taxes as it is at building things. Others, though, say this is a sign not of dodging but of a desperate need for tax reform in the United States.
It has been 656 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Stocks did end the day with a record high after a Federal Reserve official raised hopes the central bank would keep pumping money into the U.S. economy. The economy is still struggling though. And that's the dichotomy. Stocks may be hitting records, profits are at record highs, but wages are simply not keeping up.
And back to our top story tonight, the disaster in Oklahoma. It has been raining throughout the day, on and off. It's made search-and- rescue operations all the more difficult. But there were heroes and a hundred people pulled out of the rubble nonetheless. And according to the Moore mayor, Glenn Lewis, at this point, he's saying they don't have anyone missing. Authorities are continuing their search to make sure that there are no survivors overlooked. 24 people have been confirmed as killed, including eight children in Moore.
We've also just learned in the past hour that 2,400 homes were damaged. And, as we speak, additional help is pouring into the region.
The president spoke, assuring Oklahoma federal aid is on its way.
And we're also learning the tornado at one moment was an EF5, which is the highest classification for tornadoes. And it means that wind speeds were above 200 miles per hour. And that moment, when they were able to confirm the damage was at 200 miles per hour, plus, was at the Briarwood Elementary School. That's about a mile and a half from Plaza Towers Elementary School where seven students died. But at Briarwood, everyone survived.
Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT with how teachers at Briarwood Elementary put their lives on the line to save every single child.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the frantic moments after the tornado struck Briarwood Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma.
LAVANDERA: Chaos instantly wrapped in the comforting arms of parents and teachers, snapshots that capture the emotion, words can't fully do justice.
This is where we find Tammy Glasgow and her second grad class.
TAMMY GLASGOW, TEACHER, BRIARWOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: I can't describe what was going through my head. I was numb.
LAVANDERA: As the tornado sirens blared and teaches moved students to safe positions, Tammy stepped outside.
(on camera): This is what you saw just --
GLASGOW: Yeah, right before we went in.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): She snapped this picture of the twister barreling right at her classroom. Tammy raced inside and crammed about 20 students into a closet and bathroom.
(on camera): What do you tell a bunch of second-grade little kids at that moment?
GLASGOW: Well, before I shut the door, because those bathrooms have doors, I shut the doors and I said, I love you. The boys looked at me a little bit strange. I walked into the girls and I said, I love you. They all said, I love you back.
I just told them to pray. That's what we did the whole time in the closet was pray.
LAVANDERA: Do you think they grasped what was about to happen?
GLASGOW: I'm not guilty really sure. There were all singing the national anthem. We're about to have a program in two days. We were going to perform the national anthem. So they were practicing. They were just trying to forget what was actually happening.
LAVANDERA: For Tammy, the horror seemed to never end.
GLASGOW: I assumed that they would be quick. But it stayed and stayed. And stuff was falling over us. We had books over our heads. And I glanced up once and you could just see it. It was like brown. Huge. Never-ending. Just all the way up to the heavens. And then I got back down, a cinderblock fell on the back of my neck.
LAVANDERA: The only section of this school left somewhat in tact is that girls and boys bathroom. And it was there, at the very last second, where a couple of these teachers, Tammy included, decided to move those students in there at that very last second. Then everything erupted. The walls started caving in.
This car blown into the side of the wall. If there had been students on the other side, it could have been devastating.
But at the very last second, the teachers to move those students into that area. And that's what saved their lives.
(voice-over): Despite what you see here, everybody at that school survived the tornado strike. There were lots of tears but, Tammy says, the students were brave.
GLASGOW: I mean, they were calm, surprisingly very calm.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Why do you think that is?
GLASGOW: I think they felt save. I mean, we did our best to take care of them and make them feel loved and secure.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): As we talked, she found a muddy paper that brought tears to her eyes.
(on camera): Was that an end-of-year award?
GLASGOW: Yes. It was to be given in a couple of days.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): A beautiful handwriting award that a little boy named Jackson was supposed to receive this week. Tammy Glasgow won't let the tornado take away what Jackson earned.
(on camera): What do you want to tell your students if you could you see them right now?
GLASGOW: I love them. I mean, I miss them. I know we just have three days left. But I want to make sure they're all right.
LAVANDERA: With this tornado making a direct strike on two elementary schools, a lot of people we spoke with today are wondering whether or not more money should be invested in building storm shelters attached to these schools. What's interesting, in the last 10 to 15 years, a lot of the newer schools around here that have been built have been made with storm shelters, and safety rooms were students can be huddled into when tornadoes approach. And a lot of students we spoke with today, Erin, are wondering if that money should be spent in providing those storm shelters at more and more schools to keep these students safe -- Erin?
BURNETT: Thanks very much to you.
A big question going on about those shelters. Along with the countless scenes of destruction and more images of relief and gratitude, including this one. You may have seen it, the man hugging that little boy, and that moment of reunion. That's his neighbor that survived the tornado's destruction at the school that he was just at, the Briarwood Elementary School. The school no longer exists, but that little boy does.
Here's the scene as this frightened first grader first saw that familiar face.
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BURNETT: Earlier, I spoke to the two people in that photo, six-year- old Hezekiah and Jim Routon, along with Jim's daughter, Sheyna. And I asked them about that moment.
JIM ROUTON, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I'm just sitting there. I was just relieved to find Hezekiah. He was -- to see something familiar and know that he was OK. I knew he was there at the school. Just to see him and know that he was OK and didn't have any cuts or bruises or anything. It was an emotional connection that we had. But it was very real and very rewarding, very satisfying.
BURNETT: Hezekiah -- I don't know if he can here me. But, Hezekiah, what went through your mind when you first saw, you first saw your neighbor and you realized it was someone you knew?
ROUTON: What went through your mind when you first saw me and you knew it was Big Dog.
HEZEKIAH, TORNADO SURVIVOR: When I first saw you, I just jumped on you. I knew that you were going to pick me up so I just jumped. And you picked me up and I just started hugging you really hard. I was crying a little bit and I was happy that I survived.
BURNETT: Jim, when you hear him say that, how do you feel? You were that light for him?
ROUTON: Yeah, I felt like maybe I needed that hug as much as he did at that time. It was just so much chaos. It was so chaotic. And we just weren't sure, you know, that the school was pretty much devastated and mostly destroyed. And we just weren't sure if anyone was going to come out alive. It was awesome. BURNETT: Shana, I know you were the first to see Hezekiah running towards your dad. What did you think at that moment? You don't know who is alive and you see that little boy who I know is so important in your father's life?
SHEYNA ROUTON, JIM'S DAUGHTER: I just -- I saw him when I came -- I came around the corner. I saw that the school was gone and I just took off running. I said he's in there and I need to find him. He screamed my name it was the best feeling ever to know that he was safe and alive.
BURNETT: Jim, I just want to ask Hezekiah, how does he feel now? Does he want to go back to school or not?
ROUTON: How do you feel now? Do you want to go back to that school or not?
HEZEKIAH: I don't really want to go back to the school. Unless there's another one. If there's another one, I just want to, like, stay away from it and go to a different school, so I don't have to go through it again.
BURNETT: And you were very close to him. What does that do for you?
ROUTON: Well, he's a special little man. And I think this will just -- this will enrich our relationship, as far as that goes. He's just continue to be the same little dog. He calls me Big Dog and I call him Little Dog when we're playing basketball or whatever. He just says I'm so glad to see you, Big Dog, whenever he ran through me. So it was pretty special.
BURNETT: Does it surprise you? Can you believe the picture of the two of you, Big Dog and Little Dog, is -- I mean, the whole world has seen it. It has become an image of joy and recovery. Can you believe that?
ROUTON: No, I can't. The media outlets that are getting these types of stories and pictures out for everyone that actually helps us, you know, to the heeling process and helps us to learn and see that we have to depend on one another. We have to depend on one another to get through these kinds of things. We're Oklahomans and that's the Oklahoma spirit. We've been through this. We'll get through it. By the grace of God, we'll rebuild and clean up and move on.
BURNETT: Thank you so much.
That image has given so many a light and a ray of hope.
Thanks to Jim, Big Dog, Hezekiah, Little Dog, and Sheyna. Thanks to all three of you.
ROUTON: OK, thank you.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BURNETT: Next, more than one hundred people have been pulled alive from the tornado's path of discussion, many of them saved by rescue dogs. We're going to meet the handler and the dog, named Salsa, live, OUTFRONT, next.
BURNETT: Officials say more than 100 people have been pulled alive from the rubble left by the tornado, and a lot of them were found by dogs, specially trained to sniff out any sign of life.
Live, OUTFRONT tonight, is Oklahoma City fire captain, Dane Yaw, with K9 handler with Oklahoma Task Force Number One joining us with his partner, Salsa, who has been working so hard.
Dane, I know when you reached the scene, it was just 15 minutes after touchdown. Where did you go first to look for people?
CAPT. DANE YAW, OKLAHOMA CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT & K9 HANDLER, TASK FORCE NUMBER ONE: We were assigned to search Briarwood Elementary. That was our first assignment.
BURNETT: And Briarwood was completely leveled, right? You must have gotten there and thought the devastation was incredible, yet, you were able to get everyone out alive?
YAW: Yeah, it was a true amount of devastation.
BURNETT: Dane, I know you're there with Salsa, who is looking so calm and in control. Dogs can make everyone feel so wonderful. You've been working, though, canine teams on the ground, 12 hour shifts, just completely exhausting. Human or dog. How were you able to find people? How does Salsa work?
YAW: Salsa is a live find dog. She goes by air scent. She's not like a tracking dog. She's completely autonomous. I send her on a search and she gets in the sync and does everything on her own. The handler's main responsibility is to make sure they cover the devastation area thoroughly. So we'll send them back into areas that we don't think they covered completely.
BURNETT: How does she know when she finds someone and how does she communicate that you?
YAW: It's called a focus bark alert. She's trained, when she gets the scent of a live human, she'll put her nose down and just bark until we relieve her.
BURNETT: When you're in the middle of this, you haven't slept, you get word that your niece was among the missing at Briarwood. What happened to her?
YAW: Correct. She was, actually, thankfully picked up by her grandparents. Her father, when we were first dispatched, we had to park several blocks away because of the debris and walk our crews up. One of the citizens grabbed me on the arm and said, can you help me? I turned around and it was actually my brother-in-law.
YAW: Once we got over the shock of him and me, he said, he had reason to think he needed to find her. So it became not just a normal search, but a more personal -- going through Briarwood Elementary, searching for her. But, thankfully, she was picked up earlier. So it turned out well.
BURNETT: That was a blessing. A blessing, Dane.
And, you know, Salsa has worked in five other tornadoes. When she finds someone alive and you hear her bark, you hear her bark, does she feel a sense of a pride? Does she know and understand the amazing thing she's just done? Do you think?
YAW: No they actually -- during our trainings, it's no different to them than when we deploy. The handlers are the ones that are stressed our. To them, they're playing another game of hide and seek. So the victim that we're searching for, to them, is somebody that's hiding with their toy.
YAW: So they're the least stressed out on the search.
BURNETT: Dane, thank you so much and thank you for taking the time. And we're so happy about your niece.
YAW: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Dane and Salsa.
Still to come, it often seems like these tornadoes only happen in this country. And there's a reason for that. We'll explain.
BURNETT: When the tornado touched down on Monday, it caught a lot of people off guard, mostly, because there's been a real lull in serve tornado storms this year. Prior to Monday, only about half the usual number of tornadoes for this time of year had actually been reported. And they say unusually cool conditions in the southern states cut tornado activity by depriving spring storms the moist, warm air that they need to fuel tornadoes. But, yet, even with fewer storms, America still has the bulk of the world's tornado activity. Which brings me to tonight's number. 75 percent. That's the percent of the world's tornadoes that occur in this country, the United States. Every year, the U.S. averages between 800 and a thousand tornadoes. Canada is the second country on that list and they only get 100.
But why? According to Discovery, it's a combination of a couple things, geography and climatology. Tornado Alley really cuts right through the Midwest, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma. It has a lot of flat, low-lying regions. It's a climate that creates tornadoes. When you think about it, that can be plausible but why is there such a discrepancy in the numbers. 75 percent in this country. I've been to a lot of places around the world that seem similar. They don't seem unlike Tornado Alley when you look at those descriptions and they don't get the same severe storms. It also goes to show you how complicated nature is and how amazing it is, how little we still can understand.
Our continuing coverage of the devastating tornado continues with "Piers Morgan Live" after this break.