Plaza Towers principal relives devastating day

For the first time since an EF5 tornado leveled their schools, the principals of Plaza Towers and Briarwood met with the media Friday.

Amy Simpson is the Principal of Plaza Towers Elementary. She was born and raised in Moore and hailed the teachers as heroes who sacrificed everything for their children.

Simpson said Plaza Towers' Monday started just like every other day: they had their "Rise and Shine" where the students, teachers, and counselors all get together and celebrate the children. They sing songs, say the school creed, and celebrate the accomplishments of their students inside and outside of school.

They then celebrated first and second graders with parents and grandparents followed by practicing 6th grade graduation, which the school calls recognition.

Over the lunch hour, the school district sent out a warning for the schools to be weather aware. That's when parents started coming to pick up their children.

Principal Simpson said the number of parents coming in started getting larger and larger. She said she asked parents to calmly walk down the hall to get their students so they would not worry the other children. The parents followed the request and as soon as they were out of site from the students, parents ran with their children to their cars.

She said as the tornado got closer, parents were still coming in but Principal Simpson told parents they need to take cover with the students or leave immediately. Some parents chose to leave but they were parked on the west side of the building. When they saw how close the tornado was, they instead ran back into the building and took cover with the students.

Moments before the tornado hit, Principal Simpson spoke on the intercom and told the school "It's here". She then went and got into a bathroom with four other women from the school's office.

At that point, everything started shaking and it got really quiet right before the tornado hit. Then everything got really loud and she started felling things falling on her through the ceiling.

As the tornado raged overhead, Simpson called out for the first and only time.

"In God's name, go away!"

She said she called that out four times and it left. At that point, she looked at the other ladies and said to them "I gotta get out of here and get to the kids."

She said she climbed over the rubble in the bathroom and stepped out and the entire neighborhood was gone. Walls that once stood there were missing. She saw kids peaking around what used to be a corner of a hallway and the bumper of a car that had landed in the school.

But Simpson said that's when she saw something incredible.

"Men and women ran into the school with gloves, crowbars, and shovels. I have no idea where they got the tools they needed, but they had them. We got everyone out of pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade within minutes. I then noticed the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders were all being taken out and walking to a church."

Simpson said her husband arrived and she told him to get to the first and second graders because she hadn't seen them yet. She said she went to the area they were in and saw some second graders walking straight out of the hallway while others were buried.

"More and more people started showing up and helping the kids. I begged and pleaded with the human chain of people to get me up there."

When she got to them, they were still pulling out students and teachers.

"The rest of the evening was a nightmare. It started as a normal day and turned into a horrible thing for seven families. The families want everybody to know Plaza Towers did what they could do"

Through it all, Principal Simpson said not a single parent or family blamed them.

"They're Oklahomans too. They know what it means to live in Tornado Alley. We practiced. We were in our safest places."

Now, the grieving process has begun.

"Yesterday, we buried one of our seven. Today we buried two. Tomorrow, we'll bury two more. Monday, another one. Next Friday , our last one."

Principal Simpson said the teachers sacrificed themselves for their children

"Teachers covered themselves in debris while covering the babies. Teachers acted quickly, stayed calm, and took the weight of walls on their bodies."

Simpson finished her story by thanking her staff for acting quickly and calmly and the first responders.

"The first responders are heroes in our eyes."