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Path Of Destruction 17 Miles Long; Oklahoma Lawmakers Return to View Damage; Daycare Hero Saved Children's Lives; Studying the Destruction

Aired May 21, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. We're live also here in Moore, Oklahoma. This is a town absolutely devastated by a monstrous tornado. I've been to war zones. This looks like a war zone. Behind me, what used to be a bowling alley, we're right next door to the Moore Medical Center. You can see bowling balls still behind me at what used to be Moore Bowling.

Here are the latest developments we're following right now. Oklahoma officials today lowered the death toll after initial confusion. At least 24 people, including nine children were killed by the massive tornado. At least 237 people were injured. Seven of those children died at the Plaza Towers Elementary School not far away from where we are right now. Some of them drowned while taking shelter in the basement.

And according to the National Weather Service, damage assessments show the tornado was an extraordinary EF-5. That's the highest level with wind speeds 200 miles an hour for at least part of the time it was ravaging this area. CNN's special coverage of the rescue effort continues right now. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

The path of destruction is said to be 17 miles long and more than a mile wide. Brian Todd is here in Moore, Oklahoma with us. He got a first-hand look at what was going on. I got to tell you, Brian, from watching it on television, we expected a bad situation. But once you see this in person, you see what this tornado did and you can only imagine the people who suffered, it's so heartbreaking.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can't imagine. This used to be a bowling alley. If anyone was inside, it's hard to imagine they got out when you see just what this tornado did here, the destruction, Wolf. You know, the mayor of Moore was totally exhausted when he led us earlier today into the hardest hit area, which is right near us from this area of the bowling alley, what used to be that, to the medical center here right over here.

This whole section of town just completely torn apart by the tornado, and we got a first-hand look at it.


TODD (voice-over): We drove past 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 handle on the scope of the destruction in the town he's lived in all his life.

How overwhelmed do you feel right now with all of this?

MAYOR GLENN LEWIS, MOORE, OKLAHOMA: Pretty overwhelmed. It's going to be a mess to clean this up. But we'll do it.

TODD: 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, MOORE, OKLAHOMA CITY COUNCILMAN: The doctor and nurse stayed with her and she completed the birthing process.

TODD: While this was going on.


TODD: And then, did they successfully get her and her child out of there?

ROBERTS: Yes. Yes. As a matter of fact, they said there was absolutely no injuries to any of the patients or the staff.

TODD: 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 Xs on vehicles and other things mark the fact that there are no live bodies inside the structure, but the mayor says that doesn't mean there aren't any bodies underneath and the mayor says that's why they have the K-9 teams out still combing the wreckage for bodies.

(voice-over) There are some places in Moore that are still too 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.

CHIEF GARY BIRD, MOORE, OKLAHOMA, FIRE DEPARTMENT: The biggest concern now for the citizens and then for my men and all the people that have come in to help just to be sure they're safe and be sure the citizens understand that we're doing the best we can and getting there as fast as we can.


TODD (on-camera): The fire chief says first responders are still working around the clock. This is still a rescue effort. He says -- the chief says that they've gotten through most of the homes here in Moore, and they're going to go through all of the damaged homes at least three times each, Wolf. They've got to make sure they've gotten everyone out of there.

BLITZER: They're actually telling some people in some of these devastated areas not to go back to their homes. What's going on?

TODD: The police chief, Jerry Stillings (ph), told me that earlier today, Wolf. He said it is just too dangerous for people to come back and start picking through the wreckage of their homes right now. He says downed power lines, open gas lines, very, very dangerous. Right now, he says everyone just stay away, but as we've seen in these neighborhoods, it doesn't keep people away. They're still coming back, and the police chief says that's a real risk.

BLITZER: Yes. But you can't blame him. They want to see if they can salvage a photo album, get something out of the rubble that has developed.

TODD: Any remnant of their lives.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Brian, thanks very much. John King is also following what's going on. There's a desperate effort under way right now to find survivors if, in fact, there are more survivors. John is joining us live. John, tell our viewers, first of all, where you are and what you're seeing.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm not too far away, a little less than a mile from you in Moore. And as you look through this neighborhood, you can see it is devastated. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these. You just heard Brian say they're asking some families now to come back early -- very cautious, but you see one group here. They just came back a short time ago.

Taking some stuff from the house, lining some children's stuff up here and some other belongings along the driveway. We've seen this throughout the day. I was here at daybreak and we saw families coming back trying to find precious memorabilia. Some trying to find to see whether their pets survived. And you see again throughout this neighborhood, I just want to walk over here to show you the random nature of this monster that came through.

This is a child's play area that somehow wrapped up in the tree here as this house. But Wolf, as we're standing here now, not that long ago, teams of responders did come through here, a big wave of them, search teams with their dogs coming back through. Now, all of these houses were searched yesterday afternoon and throughout the late night and into the early morning hours. But I want you to listen here.

Brian Todd just made note of this. The police chief, Gary Bird, said once is not enough, and he hopes by tonight to revisit all these homes not twice but three times. Let's listen.


BIRD: We made it through, I will say, most of the structures, most of the vehicles, most of the homes. But the ones that we didn't make it through yesterday, we'll make it through today for sure and a second and third time. We will be through every damaged piece of property in this city at least three times before we're done. And we hope to be done by dark.


KING: Hope to be done by dark. You heard the chief there earlier today, Wolf, as you well know, that was all complicated by the fact that it was cold. We had thunderstorms, we had lightning. The weather has improved dramatically. And again, we saw dozens come through here with their dogs. The dogs, brave dogs going into these homes and buildings, some of them stepping on the nails and other dangerous debris here.

So, the search team is coming through. They're finished with this neighborhood and they've moved on. Wolf, I was out with another search team until about two o'clock this morning. They had the dogs as well. At this point, they still call it a search and rescue mission, but they also say, of course, the priority would also be recovery and, remarkably, remarkably, the city manager was in this neighborhood not that long ago.

He says he doesn't believe there's anybody still unaccounted for here in Moore. He says that's their unofficial sense. Not anybody unaccounted for, but they want to double check and triple check and they're urging people if you haven't found anybody, if you have found -- if you left the area check in so people know you're accounted for and if you're still missing someone check in but just look around here, Wolf.

You can see one of the reasons these search teams are coming through and digging through some of this debris is maybe for a miracle if there's somebody buried under this, but also, just to have a double check and triple check so that they're confident that they looked everywhere before they declared the search over -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. That search is going to continue for some time, because it's just an enourmous area. This is a major suburban part of Oklahoma City. It's a community of about 50,000, 60,000 itself, Moore, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City has more than 600,000 people. And this tornado, an EF-5, the highest category, zipped through this area 24 hours ago with awesome devastation. John, we'll get back to you.

The frantic, terrifying search for survivors in the moments just after the tornado hit have left so many people here in Moore, Oklahoma understandably shaken and very emotional. One couple spoke about that experience with CNN's George Howell.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was just carnage, you know? But it had to be done. People needed to be helped. And so, I started revving everybody up. People were just running up and down the streets and I got them hollering out, you know, if you can hear me, call out. And, we started finding people, and we started getting people out.


BLITZER: Up next, two schools in the path of the storm. One is completely, completely destroyed. Frantic parents desperately searching for young victims. The other school, well, you'll see some efforts under way. The raw emotions as families reunite.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing live coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer here. We're reporting from Moore, Oklahoma. That's just outside Oklahoma City. One of the most horrific scenes here in Moore, the twisted wreckage of the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Normally, 500 kids are students. They' pre-K through 6th grade. CNN's Erin McPike is on the scene for us.

She's joining us on the phone. Erin, I know authorities are keeping people at a distance, but what are you seeing? What can you tell us?

VOICE OF ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, yes, I cannot get very close to the school, but I do see it in the distance and I can tell you there is big crane over the top of the school that's moving some material around. There are also some industrial lights. Even though it is very light outside, sunny, there are lots of crews that need to still comb through the debris that's around the school.

But you're right, law enforcement has been very serious about keeping people out of the area. They tried to get us out of the way twice. And part of that is because there are gas leaks all through the neighborhood and it's not safe for people as they try and come through the neighborhoods to recover things from their houses.

I did talk to a couple teenagers who said that they went to the elementary school and they wanted to get up and get a good look at it, but law enforcement is letting no one near that school, Wolf.

BLITZER: And so, you basically -- they're not giving you any updates on if they're still searching, what's going on behind the scenes, they're keeping it pretty closed off.

MCPIKE: That's right. They're still looking for things. They haven't been very clear about what that means, but there is a very large team searching that area right now, still, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story that is over there at that elementary school. In fact, Erin, two schools in the path of destruction. This was the wrenching scene at one of them. Briarwood Elementary School, that's just moments after the tornado hit. As frantic parents desperately tried to find their children.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, he was so brave.


BLITZER: The heartbreaking scene. Let's bring in CNN's Ed Lavandera. Ed, you spent the day over that Briarwood Elementary School where miraculously everyone survived. Tell us what you saw. Normally, at that elementary school, pre-K through sixth grade, also, 600 or 700 kids would normally be in school.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the sounds from that videotape that you just played there, Wolf, is really chilling, but it's a far different scene today. Eerily quiet, actually, as we walked a mile to get to that school today, and we met one of the teachers there. Tammy Glasgow, a second grade teacher who has taught at Briarwood Elementary for 16 years and she told me as we talked just outside of her classroom that has been destroyed and demolished and left in pieces that as she saw the tornado coming toward her classroom, she simply felt numb.


TAMMY GLASGOW, 2ND GRADE TEACHER, BRIARWOOD ELEM. SCHOOL: Before I shut the doors because the bathrooms had doors. I said, "I'm shutting the doors." And I said, "I love you." The boys looked at me a little strange. Walked in the girls and said, "I love you." And they all said, "I love you back." And you just don't, you know, I just told them to pray and then that's what we did the whole time in the closet. Just prayed.

My own son was in the bathroom with the boys, so I just said, you know, "watch over them." "Take care of them," you know? And it was so loud you can't -- you couldn't hear anything. Just hear and it was forever and ever. I just assumed that they would be quick, but it just stayed and stayed and stuff was falling on us.

We had books over our heads. And, I looked, glanced up once and you could just see it. It was just like brown, huge, never ending, just all the way up to the heavens. And then, I got back down, a cinder block fell on the back of my neck. So, I crouched back down and happened to look up again and you could see that it was, the sky was clearing, but there was just stuff flying everywhere.

So, I said, not yet, not yet and got back down, and finally, the rain started and we could tell it was getting lighter. And so, we started hearing voices and we started pulling them out.

LAVANDERA: How were the kids reacting?

GLASGOW: I mean, they were calm, surprisingly very calm.

LAVANDERA: Why do you think that is?

GLASGOW: I think they felt safe. I mean, you know, we did our best to take care of them and make them feel loved and secure. I mean, that -- people, you know, talked about us being brave, but it's just our job. I mean, we love these kids like they're our own.


LAVANDERA: Wolf, she also told me an incredible story about the moments just before the tornado hit that the students were singing the national anthem, that they were preparing and had been practicing for a performance that they were supposed to put on at the school later this week and to try to calm themselves down. A lot of the kids started singing the national anthem.

In the frantic moments after the tornado struck, she really didn't get a chance to speak very much with her students or the parents that came by to pick them up, so she says that there's only three days of school left. She's anxious to see those students again to make sure that they're doing okay. As you might imagine, the second grade class will remember Miss Glasgow, no question, for the rest of their lives -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They certainly will and they should. What a great emotional story for that. All right. Ed, thanks very much. We'll check back with you.

Coming up here, our special SITUATION ROOM continues. She says it was the second prayer God answered not just saving her life but her dog's. We're going to go see the emotional moment he was pulled from the rubble alive.

Plus, a really moving story. A mother and baby, they flee their home just minutes before it's totally destroyed by this tornado. Because of that split-second decision, they are alive and well and here with me right now. I'll speak with them when we come back.


BLITZER: All right. We're back. We're here in Moore, Oklahoma. That's right outside of Oklahoma City. We can't (INAUDIBLE), but you can see -- skip -- come on up here and take a look at what's going on. I want our viewers to see, these are bowling balls. You see on this. There's carpeting here. This used to be a bowling alley right over here in Moore.

I would walk up there, but authorities don't really want us to go into this area. They say it's dangerous to walk around there. They don't know what's going on. But if you take a look, you can see what used to be these benches where (INAUDIBLE) would keep score. Very popular bowling center here in Moore, Oklahoma.

(INAUDIBLE) the entire structure has come down and it's just heartbreaking. If you take a look over here, you see how far it goes. A major complex though the walls have stayed put. This was a very popular bowling alley. And take a look over here skip to my right. If you go over there, you see some TV crews, but you see the medical center, that's the Moore Medical Center over there.

This is -- this was a hospital. I guess, someday, it might still be a hospital, about 40 or 50 beds. Not a big hospital, but a hospital that you can really see the destruction especially if you pan over here and you get over there, you see what's going on. You see some of the cars literally that had been tossed around into that structure over there. The Moore Medical Center, which was wrecked totally destroyed. Miraculously, I spoke to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who spoke with some of the doctors. He's going to be joining us pretty soon, Sanjay. He points out that no one, this is a miracle, in that hospital was injured. They got everybody out OK. They evacuated people to some of the safer areas, some of the shelter areas. They did an amazing job. Sanjay is going to share that story with us later here in the SITUATION ROOM.

But this is just one of the amazing stories that we're seeing. A hospital destroyed, a bowling alley destroyed, an entertainment complex still there, but it's pretty much destroyed as well. Amid all of this, amid all of this destruction, one amazing story of survival comes through. I want you to watch this.


BARBARA GARCIA, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I was holding my dog. I was sitting on the stool holding my dog. This was the game plan all through the years, you know, to go in that little bathroom. And the electric never went off, because the electric went off in the bathroom about the same time I felt the stool come up out of the floor. And I rolled around a little bit and when it stopped, I was right there. That stove cooker is what I saw.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were lying there in the rubble?

GARCIA: And I never lost consciousness. And I hollered for my little dog. He didn't answer or didn't come, so I know he's in here somewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The dog. The dog. Hi, puppy!


GARCIA: Oh, bless your little bitty heart. Help me. Oh -- Oh! Oh! Oh! Come on.


GARCIA: Oh, oh, oh, oh. Well, I thought God just answered one prayer to let me be OK. He answered both of them, because this was my second prayer.


BLITZER: What a story that is. You know, there are thousands and thousands of these stories. I just was walking around for the past few hours trying to absorb what's going on. Virtually, every person I saw here in Moore, Oklahoma had a story to share, a powerful story.

What happened 24 hours ago here is so, so destructive, so powerful, but there were miracles. Indeed, a mother's split-second decision to take her baby and leave their home only moments before the tornado destroyed that home. That mother and the baby, they are here with me. We'll talk to them right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: As urgent rescue efforts continue in the wake of Oklahoma's killer tornado, here are the latest developments we're watching right now.

The death toll is now at least 24, including nine children. It was revised lower today after some early confusion. At least 237 people were injured. The storm more than a mile wide carved a path of destruction 17 miles long through the Oklahoma City suburbs including in Moore, where I am reporting from right now.

Throughout the disaster zone at least a hundred people have been pulled alive from the rubble. Officials say the search goes on board by board until every vehicle, every ruined structure is examined, they say not once not twice but three times. They don't want to make any mistakes.

Rebecca Vitzbone (ph) was prepared to ride out the tornado with her 19-year-old son Anders.


BLITZER: Nineteen months old, excuse me. He's not 19 years old.

And Rebecca is here. There is Anders. Anders, how do you feel right now? Say good.

VITZBONE: Anders, can you say good? No.

BLITZER: Okay. He is a little shy right now. He's got that microphone.

So, Rebecca, tell us what happened. You were at home. Your husband was away on the road, right?

VITZBONE: He was on the interstate.

BLITZER: You were in your house.


BLITZER: You're not from this area.

VITZBONE: I'm from Louisiana.

BLITZER: All right, so what did he say to you if there were a tornado?

VITZBONE: He and all the other Oklahomans always say you stay in your home. You stay in your home, and they always say it never hits anybody. I've lived here my entire life. Never hits. You know, you don't leave. And there's been times where I was pregnant with him I was in the bathtub with a helmet on my head crying and begging to leave. And he'd say no, we're not going anywhere and it didn't hit us and I was like, OK, maybe you're right. But I never felt that way.

BLITZER: So yesterday around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, you're home alone, right? VITZBONE: Yes.

BLITZER: And you got Anders and you, and what do you do?

VITZBONE: I'd been watching the news all day and it kept saying oh, it's going to come at 6:00 or and then it even pushed it back and was coming at 8:00. And so when I saw clouds outside I was like, okay. Why are there clouds? Then I looked and they started saying all the buzz words that I'm used to hearing here. The hook, it's strengthening, it's feeding, you know. And then they showed - so I immediately went and I got my tub that had some water and put a towel down and I went and grabbed his mattress and brought it into the bathroom with us and I put the laptop there for us to watch what was going on. And then they showed it, and they said it was 44 -- and then showed the projection and it was like crossing my street. And whenever I saw it, I just panicked. I just panicked. I looked at it and I said, I'm not staying.

BLITZER: You were lying in the bathtub with Anders.


BLITZER: All of a sudden you have the laptop.

VITZBONE: It was five miles away. They said it's strengthening.

BLITZER: Your husband is away.

VITZBONE: I see debris in the air from this thing and it's coming right for me and I'm from Louisiana. We have hurricanes. And when they're big, you just leave. You know? It was sort of like suddenly telling me, you know, there's a hurricane that's going to hit your house in ten minutes. You know?

BLITZER: So what did you do?

VITZBONE: I ran. I ran. I didn't have any shoes on. I didn't grab anything. I was mad that I had to get keys. I couldn't believe I had to get my keys.

BLITZER: For the car.

VITZBONE: Yes. It was so frustrating to have to get keys. I just wanted to leave. I didn't even put him in his car seat. I just put him in my lap, and I kept thinking they're never going to pull me over. You know, why would they do that?

BLITZER: You just started driving.

VITZBONE: I just drove. I drove. But I started feeling guilty that he was on my lap. I was just like this is a bad decision. So I got him out just past the high school when I pulled over and I went to put him in his car seat but the winds were so hard it was like blowing him sideways.

BLITZER: So, it was like torrential out there. It was raining. VITZBONE: This was, yes -- at least a half a mile away from my house, and it was windy like that. So I just shoved him in his car seat and clicked the top and then went another mile and went and fixed his car seat.

BLITZER: You saw the tornado?


BLITZER: How far was the tornado from where you were?

VITZBONE: About two miles.

BLITZER: So you were just trying to drive in the opposite direction?

VITZBONE: Yes. Well, I drove south because it was going northeast.

BLITZER: You just drove away as fast as you could.

VITZBONE: Yes. I just sat there and then I said I realized my cats were at the house. You know. And I was like oh, my gosh. I have to go back. I got to see if they're okay.

BLITZER: How long did you sit before you made that U-turn and went back?

VITZBONE: Not -- 15 minutes.

BLITZER: Now, your husband was away. He's on the interstate --

VITZBONE: He was closer.

BLITZER: Did you have a cell phone with you or anything?

VITZBONE: No. We don't own cell phones because we're -- we've decided not to catch up with the modern age.

BLITZER: All right. So your husband is -- he thinks you're at home.

VITZBONE: He thinks I'm there.

BLITZER: He thinks your inside the house in the bathroom.

VITZBONE: Yes. He actually -- you know, I knew we were safe, so I stayed in the traffic to get back because everybody was trying to go back. And then I didn't have shoes but I found some heels in my back seat, and I threw those on so I had to kind of tiptoe all the way back. It took me forever. Maybe 45 minutes.

BLITZER: All right. You get back to your house, and what do you see?

VITZBONE: He is just searching for us, my husband.

BLITZER: He is there. The house is what?

VITZBONE: Nothing. This. BLITZER: The house looks like this.

VITZBONE: Just like this. There's less standing. Like those chairs are standing. We don't have anything.

BLITZER: And your husband thinks you and Anders are inside.

VITZBONE: Well, he found the towel --

BLITZER: We'll show our viewers a picture of the house.

VITZBONE: He found a towel on the back of the bathroom and he found the mattress next to it, so he knew that's what I do. That's the thing we do. Then the helmet -- he remembered that I put on a helmet last time. So he found Anders' helmet and he was, you know, didn't know what to think.

BLITZER: So, he thought you were inside.

VITZBONE: He watched it hit.

BLITZER: He thought you were dead.


BLITZER: He thought Anders was dead.


BLITZER: And you were underneath that rubble.

VITZBONE: Yes. I mean, the car, you know, was gone but our neighbor's car was on our house. There was no reason to think that my car couldn't have just been somewhere.

BLITZER: I mean, it's like the cars were flying around as if they were nothing during this 200-mile-an-hour tornado when you think about what's going on. All right. So there's obviously -- he sees you at one point. He's home.

VITZBONE: I screamed. I just screamed at the top of my lungs.

BLITZER: Describe that to us.

VITZBONE: You know, as soon as I -- I didn't know he would be there. There was no reason for me to have thought he would be there especially before me. I just went down the road and came back. But he had ran from his car to try to get there and one of our -- I just went, Brian! Brian! You know, and he just ran up and then we both cried and hugged. And it was actually like -- when we hug, we all three hug Anders always says, ah. We just, like, burst into tears. It was awesome.

BLITZER: Anders, he talks a lot, but he is pretty shy right now.

VITZBONE: He's preoccupied. He just needs something to -- BLITZER: Yes. I think he's a happy little guy.


BLITZER: You're a happy young lady.

VITZBONE: I couldn't be happier.

BLITZER: You survived.

VITZBONE: I saw the bathtub.

BLITZER: And when you think about it, if you would have stayed in that house.

VITZBONE: No. There is no way. Our bathtub was full of debris. Like, the place I would have been just full of 2 x 4s and everything else. You know. There is nothing, there's no way. That's hard to think about.

BLITZER: Anders, I'm going to train you now to become an anchorman. OK? Oh, he doesn't want to let go!

VITZBONE: Try and pry it from him.

BLITZER: He's strong! You got to hold it like this. You put it in front of your mouth. Look at the camera over there, Anders.

VITZBONE: Can you say hi?

BLITZER: Say I'm Anders and this is CNN. Can you say that?

VITZBONE: Can you say -- how old are you? No, he's not going to say anything. Can you say bye-bye? Bye-bye. No.

BLITZER: He is a shy little guy.

VITZBONE: Not today.

ANDERS: Bye-bye.

BLITZER: Oh, said it!

VITZBONE: Oh, there he said it.

BLITZER: Okay. Good. Bye-bye. Shake hands.

VITZBONE: You going to shake his hand? Can you high five?

ANDERS: No, no.


BLITZER: No? Okay.

VITZBONE: Yes! BLITZER: Good! Thank you. Yes. Such a sweet little guy.


BLITZER: All right. You're blessed. Brian, your husband is blessed. Anders is blessed.

ANDERS: Brian!


BLITZER: Brian! You like Brian, huh? That's your dad. We're happy you're here. You guys did a great job. I guess you got to thank the Lord. Right?


BLITZER: Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?

VITZBONE: I -- I'm actually an atheist.

BLITZER: Oh, you are. All right.


BLITZER: But you made the right call.

VITZBONE: Yes. But we are here, and you know, I don't blame anybody for thanking the Lord.

BLITZER: Of course not.

Hey. All right. Anders, want to try one more time? OK, all right. Good for you.

ANDERS: Oh, no.


BLITZER: We're happy. We're so happy -

ANDERS: Oh, no!

BLITZER: A nice story.

VITZBONE: You see the balls.

BLITZER: The bowling balls. All right. He is 18 months old and he'll have a happy, happy life.


BLITZER: All right. Rebecca, thank you. Thanks to Brian, too.

VITZBONE: Yes, I will. BLITZER: What a nice story. A happy ending to an excellent, excellent story. We have more stories, though. Not all of them as happy as Rebecca's story. Ahead, we'll hear from the family of two children. They say a daycare operator, also nothing less than a hero after what they went through. We'll share the details right after this.


BLITZER: We have an emotional story involving a three-year-old. There he is. He was in the daycare center, and you're going to hear really another heart wrenching, miraculous story of survival. There are so many of them here in Moore, Oklahoma where we're reporting from today and will be reporting from tomorrow as well.

Members of Congress back in Washington. Those members of Congress from Oklahoma have left the nation's capital together to survey the damage back home here in Oklahoma. Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash caught up with them exclusively as they were leaving the Capitol together. She asked Republican senator James Inhofe about the federal relief effort and getting Oklahoma constituents the federal dollars they desperately will need right now to recover.


SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: I was there in 1999, the same exact place, the same tornado. The same track. And I was very glad afterwards that we were. We get to communicate with the people on the ground, the ones who are devastated, and that's just what we're supposed to be doing.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, what should the federal response be when it comes to money?

INHOFE: Well, we have -- we do have both individual and public assistance already approved. The -- Mary Fallin called me -- yesterday and obviously we qualify for everything, any type of emergency funding.

BASH: I understand it's too early to know exactly what additional you will need if anything in Oklahoma but if there is additional federal funding needed will you demand that it'd be offset by other cuts?

INHOFE: No. In fact it wouldn't be because it's already appropriated.

BASH: No, but if you need additional appropriations bill?

INHOFE: We wouldn't need additional appropriations bill. We -- everything is in place right now.


BLITZER: Dana Bash speaking exclusively with the Oklahoma lawmaker. Much more coming up. We're reporting now from Moore, Oklahoma. Two boys, they were in a daycare center when this tornado hit 24 hours or so ago. Their families spent three anguished hours not knowing if they were safe. You're going to hear this amazing story when we come back.


BLITZER: Yesterday's tornado severely damaged a hospital here. It's right to my right here in Moore, Oklahoma. The second floor is almost completely torn off. Cars in the parking lot are piled into stacks. Patients have to be moved to other hospitals in the area.

CNN's Kyung Lah has been to one of those hospitals, speaking with storm victims. And that's how she discovered the story of a daycare owner who parents are calling a hero. Kyung is joining us now with this amazing story.

Share with our viewers what happened, Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, before I get into that, Wolf, I just want to explain, the building that I'm standing in front of is the area's Level One Trauma Center. Yesterday they treated 94 patients, more than half of them were children. And as we spent the day here, we heard the story again and again. Parents, grandparents being separated from their children and frantically trying to find them.

I want you to take a look at this picture. This is an image of what was a daycare center. It's right near the elementary school. One of the destroyed elementary schools, Briarwood Elementary. You can see what's left of this daycare center. Inside, two boys, a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old, Grayson and Braydon. Listen to their grandfather as he explains being stuck in traffic trying to get to this daycare center. Here's what he told us.


RICK ROBERTS, GRANDFATHER: It's the absolute worst. What do you do? I mean, you get upset, but what are you going to do? Swim across the river? I don't know. That's the pits. You know? That's road rage and, you know, accelerated. You're just helpless, completely.

GRAYSON KETCHIE, SON: I miss my baby.




LAH: And you can see this is Grayson today. His parents and his grandfather eventually did find him. He has a head wound. He has some damage to his ear. His 6-week-old brother completely unscathed. How? Well, their daycare teacher threw a mattress and her body over them. No one at that daycare center was killed. It is a miraculous story. Their mother extremely relieved today. But she is certainly mourning for the many other mothers who cannot be as happy as she is. Here's what she told us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANNA KETCHIE, MOTHER: We can tell them it's going to be OK, we can tell them it's going to be OK, but honestly, if I lost my boys, I don't know if I could deal with that. You don't feel like that. You don't feel like it's going to be OK. Because for those three hours that I didn't hear anything, it was the longest three hours of my life. Knowing that I may never see them again. No mother should ever have to go through that.


LAH: And Wolf, we are pleased to tell you that the entire family will be going home tonight. They certainly are feeling very, very lucky -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That was an incredible three hours, though, that I'm sure they were so, so, so worried.

Kyung, thanks so much for that report.

Coming up, much more of the devastation continuing, from rescue, though, to recovery. Heart break, to determination, this state, the state of Oklahoma, and this town, the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, facing a very, very difficult road ahead. Oklahoma's governor and the mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, they will both join me live right here, that's coming up.


BLITZER: The tornado carved a path of destruction 17 miles long. CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now with a closer look at that devastating route.

Show to our -- show our viewers what happened, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, investigators are looking at this entire path of this storm, all 17 miles, to see exactly how strong it was each step of the way, particularly when it came cutting through that main swath there. Because that gives them very important clues as to how design buildings, how to design neighborhoods and try to prevent such damage in the future.

Part of the way they do is look at specific targets, like a house, that schools, the hospital which we put in the walls so you could see the damage. What are they looking for? Specific keys. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, for example, has looked at a typical house and said a normal house when hit by this type of wind will start coming apart at about 97 miles an hour.

That's been the roof. It will be pried off like a can opener from all the wind. Hundred and thirty-two miles an hour, the walls start coming down, 200 miles an hour it's all gone. So any place they see a house completely gone, if there's not a construction flaw, they're going to say, that probably meant 200 miles an hour or more. It's different when you come over to something like the school over here. It's a different type of construction. Here you're going to start losing a roof at about 101 miles an hour, the walls at 139 and all of it will be gone at about 176. It's actually a weaker building than the homes because it's much bigger, broader rooms within it.

And then when you move to something like a hospital, it's a whole different game because there's a lot of concrete, a lot of steel. This is a much more robust structure. Here you're going to be talking about some much more impressive numbers like 114 miles an hour for the roof to go, 148 for the walls to start failing, 210 for it all to go. Although that would be pushing up to 250 or 260. This is the kind of building that doesn't give up much.

The bottom line is, Wolf, they're going to look at the damage all along the route, and block by block figure out how strong this storm was so they can get a better assessment and again have better planning in the future. It's like following a criminal by looking at the scene of the crime to figure out just exactly what he did -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They've got to learn lessons from this horrible, horrible tornado.

Tom Foreman, thanks very much.