Okla. Hero Teacher Covered Students With Her Body

Hero Teacher: 'I Saw the Tornado Coming'

Now watching

Next video starts in : 7 Play

Hero Teacher: 'I Saw the Tornado Coming'

The students at Briarwood Elementary School in Moore, Okla., were just preparing to go home for the day Monday when the tornado that killed at least 24 people in their town made what authorities call a "direct hit" on their school.

"We had already prepared our backpacks and they had their bear binders and homework folders in their backpacks," first-grade teacher Sheri Bittle said today on " Good Morning America. "I had them take their backpacks and put them over their heads."

In another first-grade classroom at the school, which had its roof and walls blown off in the storm, teacher Cindy Lowe laid her body on top of her students to protect them.

RELATED: How to Help Oklahoma Tornado Victims

"I actually saw the tornado coming and knew how serious it was," Lowe said on "GMA." [I was] just laying my body on top of as many kids as I could to help out."

Both Lowe and Bittle said a main focus of their heroic actions as the tornado blew over was to calm their students, who, living in a tornado zone, had been through countless tornado drills before.

"We practiced tornado drills and things like this and I had to tell them this is not a drill and we need to be safe," said Lowe. "I was just trying to calm the children down."

PHOTOS: Oklahoma Tornado Levels Towns

Moore, a community of 41,000 people about 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, saw homes wiped away and businesses left in ruins after the tornado whipped through with wind speeds of up to 200 mph. The medical examiner's office's current death toll of 24 includes seven children, some of whom were from Plaza Towers Elementary School, the other elementary school directly in the tornado's path.

Bittle said the trauma for Briarwood's students and their parents alike continued long after the tornado had passed as frantic parents, blocked by debris and recovery efforts, tried to reach their children.

"I had a student that stayed with me until 8 p.m. last night because his parents could not get to the location there by the school where we were at," she said. "Parents walked for miles just to get to their children. They were out of breath and crying but so happy to see them and just know that they were safe."

"It was just heartbreaking to see the tears of joy, how happy they were that their child was safe and that they could finally get to them," Bittle said of the reunions.

Moore resident Andrew Wheeler credits a Briarwood teacher with keeping his son safe as the tornado wreaked havoc on the building as students were preparing for their final days in school before summer vacation.

"The teacher held their heads, and bricks and everything were falling all over the kids. She got her arm injured. One of the other boys on her other side got a big gash in his head, but he's OK," Wheeler said.

VIDEO: Tornado Rips Through Moore, Okla.

View Comments (255)

Recommended for You

  • 'Girls' Star Lena Dunham Taking Time Off for 'Chronic' Illness

    The acclaimed HBO show "Girls" is back for a new season this month, but its biggest star will not being making press appearances due to a "chronic condition."Lena Dunham took to Instagram today to write, "I just wanted to let you know that, while I am so excited for Girls to return on Feb 21, I…

    Good Morning America50 mins ago
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Rocked by Hurricane-Force Winds Heads Back to New Jersey

    A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by hurricane-force winds overnight is sailing back to port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The ship left from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Saturday for a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas. The company posted a message on Twitter saying that all guests are…

    Good Morning America
  • Zika Virus Outbreak Prompts CDC to Activate Highest Emergency Ops Level

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emergency Operations Center has been moved to Level 1, the agency's highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S., officials said today. The Level 1 activation is "reflecting the agency’s assessment of the need for an…

    Good Morning America
  • Giant Rabbit From Scotland Looking for a Home

    The Scottish SPCA center in Glasgow has a 7-month-old continental giant rabbit up for adoption. The rabbit, Atlas, is already about the size of a Westie dog and is still expected to grow, according to a Feb. 8 press release from the Scottish SPCA. Atlas is not only the same size as a dog, but…

    Good Morning America
  • Dad Tells Other Fathers, 'Respect the Mother of Your Child' in Viral Facebook Post

    A U.K. dad’s advice to fellow dads “respect the mother of your child” has gone viral after being posted in a Facebook tribute to the mother of his 9-month-old son.Tony Emms, of Cresswell Northumberland, in the U.K., posted on Facebook last month a photo of his fiancé, Charlotte Sperry, sleeping…

    Good Morning America
  • Chinese New Year Fireworks So Dangerous That Only a Few Get to Witness

    For much of the next two weeks, millions of Chinese will welcome in the Year of Monkey, which begins today, with a cavalcade of fireworks lighting up the night’s sky. In almost every corner of every city or village in Mainland China, families will light their own firecrackers and boxes of…

    Good Morning America
  • 'Kung Fu Panda 3' Stays on Top at the Box Office

    "Kung Fu Panda 3" scored another box office win during Super Bowl weekend.The animated sequel earned an estimated $21 million in its second weekend of release.'Kung Fu Panda 3' Tops the Box Office'The Revenant' Tops Weekend Box OfficeThe Coen brothers' "Hail, Caesar!" opened in second place,…

    Good Morning America
  • Peyton Manning Knows What He's Doing After Super Bowl Win

    Peyton Manning kept with tradition when it came to his Super Bowl celebration plans. The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl against the Carolina Panthers, 24-10. During a press conference after Sunday night's game, Manning said that he was "taking his kids to Disneyland" before he and his family…

    Good Morning America
  • WWE Wrestler Daniel Bryan to Retire

    Former WWE champion and professional wrestling star Daniel Bryan is retiring."Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude," he tweeted on Monday.Read: Stone Cold Steve Austin: My Life After Pro…

    Good Morning America
  • Dad's Piano-Playing Lullaby Soothes Baby Boy to Sleep in Seconds

    Take a look at little Samuel who couldn’t fall asleep because he had an ear infection. The moment his crafty dad starts playing his own version of the classic “Brahms’ Lullaby” however, the soothing sounds work like magic, putting the tiny tot to sleep within seconds.

    Good Morning America
  • Super Bowl 50: Beyonce Takes Fans Behind the Scenes of Her Performance

    Although Coldplay headlined the Super Bowl 50 halftime performance, all eyes were on Beyonce, who shared the stage with the British band along with pop star Bruno Mars.The singer, who announced her Formation World Tour right after the big game ended, is letting fans in on how her performance came…

    Good Morning America
  • Countdown to New Hampshire With 5 Things to Watch in Tuesday's Primary

    Tuesday will be a critical moment on the road to the White House as residents of the Granite State cast their votes in the first-in-the-nation primary. With independents making up more than 40 percent of the electorate, the New Hampshire primary can often surprise, and that may be the case…

    Good Morning America
  • Super Bowl 50: Peyton Manning 'Very Much at Peace'

    Peyton Manning says he’s “very much at peace” as he contemplates retirement from the NFL just hours after winning his second Super Bowl title. Manning, 39, finished 13 for 23 for 141 yards in the Broncos’ 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Sunday’s Super Bowl game at California’s Levi’s…

    Good Morning America
  • Panda Cub Bei Bei Climbs a Tree With the Help of His Mom

    Bei Bei is moving up in the world.The Smithsonian National Zoo’s baby panda experienced the outdoors for the first time last week and now the nearly six-month-old cub is scaling trees—-with the help of his mom Mei Xiang, of course. The Washington DC based Zoo posted a video of the feat online this…

    Good Morning America
  • 4 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Scoring Beyonce Tour Tickets

    Minutes after Beyonce announced her 2016 Formation World Tour during Super Bowl 50, fans flooded to her website looking for more information about the tour, and temporarily crashed the site. Fans have also been tweeting in anticipation and excitement for the ticket sales to go live. Securing…

    Good Morning America
  • Paris Jackson Reveals Struggle With Alcoholism, Pressures of Fame

    Paris Jackson, the only daughter of music legend Michael Jackson, is apparently struggling with alcoholism.In a now-deleted, profanity-laced rant on Instagram, the 17-year-old told her followers that she was being attacked online."I am expected to literally sit … all day replying to comments people…

    Good Morning America
  • Russians Arrest 7 in Alleged ISIS-Related Terror Plot

    Russian security services have arrested seven people accused of plotting terror attacks on behalf of the Islamic State in major Russian cities, the country’s FSB intelligence agency said today. The arrests were made in the city of Ekaterinburg, located in the Urals region on the edge of Siberia,…

    Good Morning America