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Christian teacher who shielded students during tornado yells ‘Start your engines!’ at IndyCar race

Jennifer and Colby Simonds, five days after the Moore tornado. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

CBS News reports:

Two Oklahoma teachers who used their bodies to shield kindergarteners when their school took a direct hit from a tornado were honored at the IndyCar race in Texas on Saturday night.
Jennifer Simonds and Anna “Sam” Canaday work at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., which was hit by an EF5 tornado May 20.
Before teaming with Canaday on an enthusiastic command for drivers to start their engines at Texas Motor Speedway, Simonds said the teachers don’t see themselves as heroes.

Read the full story.
Simonds and her husband, Colby, met as students at Oklahoma Christian University and attend the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.
They talked to The Christian Chronicle about the harrowing events of May 20, when Jennifer Simonds shielded six kindergarteners as the tornado ripped apart her school.

Jennifer Simonds remembers the lights flickering, the sound of breaking glass, the taste of dirt in her mouth as she yelled “we’re going to be fine!”
“I kept praying … that if anything was to happen, it would happen to me,” she says. “When it was all over … I sat up on my knees and realized that, on my back, was an upside-down SUV.”

Days after the storm, the couple sifted through the school building’s remains, looking for anything they could salvage.

Colby Simonds found this fragment of a picture frame in his wife’s car after the Moore tornado. (Photo by Colby Simonds)

Colby Simonds found his wife’s car in the parking lot. There was little inside, except for a piece of a picture frame, likely blown in from a nearby house.
Originally, “it probably said ‘God bless this home’ or something,” he says.
After the wind, after the rain, after almost unimaginable devastation and death, the broken piece bore only one word — “God.”
Tears flowing, Colby Simonds says, “I just know he was there.

Read the full story.
Also honored during the IndyCar Firestone 550 race at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth was C.J. Gillaspie. The captain of the volunteer fire department in West, Texas, was the honorary starter. His department lost five members in a  fertilizer plant explosion April 17. The plant’s owner was an elder of the West Church of Christ. See our recent coverage of the church’s response to the explosion.

  • Feedback
    I am writing a fiction book about a family who helps a child who has a fear of severe weather, especially floods, tornadoes and thunderstorms. I am close to finishing it. It is very detailed. I was so inspired by the teachers and staff at Moore that I made a plot change in my book this weekend that deals with teachers shielding students in a tornado. I have done much research about mothers who lost their lives to shield or help their children in floods, hurricanes and tornadoes.
    Johnny Mullens
    June, 24 2013

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