On May 20, as an atomic bomb–force tornado hit Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, at about 3 p.m., teachers scrambled to protect their charges. They herded some kids into bathrooms in the building’s interior, where sixth-grade teacher Rhonda Crosswhite, 44, ran into a stall and lay on top of six students—two under her arms, two under her torso, and two under her feet—to shield them.
“One kid was crying, ‘I don’t wanna die,’ and I yelled, ‘We’re going to be fine.’ ” A cinder block landed on her back, and glass was embedded in her skin, but Crosswhite and the students were able to walk away from the ruins of the school (seven students died at Plaza Towers that day).
Afterward, the teacher (a mother of three) and her colleagues were called heroes, a label Crosswhite rejects, saying, “Every morning at nine, those children become my children. I was just taking care of my kids.”