Stories of heroism and survival in the Moore, Okla., tornado | The Survival Doctor

Members of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 63rd Civil Support Team conduct search and rescue operations in Moore, Okla., after the May 20, 2013, tornado. But stories of heroes without uniforms—both during and after the tornado—are also emerging.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I often wonder how I would act in the face of impending danger, even death. None of us can really be sure unless we’ve been through that sort of horror.

The schoolteachers and others who survived the tornado in those now destroyed Moore, Okla., schools know. I can only pray that I could act with some semblance of the bravery and levelheadedness they did when risking their lives for those kids, in the very eye of that terrible storm.

Here’s a short video that describes some of their heroics.

In the news coverage, the teachers have also mentioned doing what they’ve done dozens of times: taking kids to the hallways and having them put books over their heads. Some people think those emergency drills everyone has to go through are boring and worthless. Think again. These are the things that lead to that reflexive action I often talk about—so that in the middle of a catastrophe, you don’t even have to think clearly to know what to do.

But it’s always good to have leaders who have the good sense to know when it’s best to tweak the rules. Some of the teachers seemed to realize this was no ordinary tornado. They bucked normal procedure, ushering kids out of the hallway and into a closet and bathrooms.

From the looks of the rubble-packed schools, that may have saved lives.

The stories of devastation and death are heartbreaking. But so many lives were saved—including after the tornado, thanks to the quick action of neighbors and first responders who rescued people from the rubble. People—and animals. In case you need a little cheering up, here’s a short video that’s bound to give you a smile:

These people are all just like us. Most never imagined they’d be in the situation they encountered. And neither can we.

Be prepared for anything—at least as much as you can. Learn, store, educate, drill, heed the warnings. That’s really all you can do. But if the time ever comes that you encounter a horror such as this, pray you can be half as brave as the heroes from this disaster in the heartland.

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Photo: Flickr/The National Guard.