Tornado survivors credit actions of elementary school teacher

May 21, 2013 at 3:17 PM

MOORE, Okla., May 21 (UPI) -- Sixth-grade students at a Moore, Okla., school credited the actions of a teacher Tuesday for saving them as a tornado destroyed their community.

Rhonda Crosswhite, teacher at Plaza Towers Elementary School, had an emotional reunion with several of her students on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday morning, as students explained how Crosswhite, covering their bodies as they lay on a floor, protecting them.

"She was covering me and my friend Zachary," said Damian Britton. I told her we were fine because we were holding on to something, and then she went over to my friend Antonio and covered him, so she saved our lives."

"It was like a freight train. It felt like someone was beating me up from behind. The stuff [from the building] was just coming down on my back. I have cuts everywhere I didn't know I had," Crosswhite told NBC in describing the sound and force of the tornado.

NBC News said Tuesday the official death toll from the tornado had been lowered to 24, including nine children.

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