Inside destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary School: One girl's story of survival
10:13 PM, May 21, 2013
1:02 PM, May 22, 2013
MOORE, Okla. - With their house too damaged to stay in, and their car totaled, the Verges may seem unlikely candidates for the luckiest family in Moore, but that's exactly how they feel.
When Monday's EF-5 tornado raced through the town, killing 24 and injuring hundreds, family members were scattered across the storm's path.
Melody Verge was at home with her husband, planning to pick their daughter up from school. But one look down 8th Street -- with the tornado bearing down -- sent the two of them running to hunker down in a closet.
"The next thing I know I just feel the walls in the closet just shaking … and hearing stuff pounding. And I'm like 'oh my God, we're probably not going to make it,'" she said.
She feared for her son, out and about in town, who swiftly turned up when the storm passed -- but more so for her daughter -- a sixth grader at Plaza Towers Elementary.
When the tornado sirens went off, 13-year-old Mercedie was in math class. She and her classmates were quickly moved to a hallway, then the boys' bathroom, where they ducked their heads under book bags and hoped for the best.
"Things were falling onto my head, and a brick hit my back," Mercedie recalled later.
The tornado ripped the school apart, killing seven students. But Mercedie walked away. When her mother arrived to pick her up, she nearly drove past the remnants of the building. She didn't recognize it.
"It was gone," she said. "Leveled."
With every human member of the family accounted for, all that remained was to find Molly, a boxer.
She turned up later that evening, having ridden out the storm in the family living room.