Plaza Towers Elementary stories of survival: Teacher, student share memories of harrowing ordeal

Courtney Brown, 8, who survived the tornado that touched down at her school, Plaza Towers Elementary, in Moore, Okla. CBS

(CBS News) The tornado that devastated Moore, Okla., completely demolished Plaza Towers Elementary School. Seven children were killed on the school's grounds. But miraculously, several students were pulled out from the rubble alive.

Second-grade student Courtney Brown is one of those child survivors. From her hospital bed, the 8-year-old recalled the moment the warning sirens first sounded. "The doors kept opening and shutting, opening and shutting by themselves," she said. "I just looked back for a second when I saw it and there's this like, kind of looked like a twister, and it was carrying the ceiling up."

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Courtney and her class were huddled together in a hallway. She was apparently hit in the back of the head by a piece of debris.

"I don't know what it was," Courtney said. "I didn't know I was hurt but everybody else told me, so I went into an ambulance and here I am."

She said when the tornado hit she was thinking about her mother. "I missed her and hoped she was OK," she said.

Watch Courtney's full story in the video below.

Courtney's mom Rachquel Brown was at work at the time. She told "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell she thought her daughter was dead. "The first I heard about the school, my mom called and told me that it was demolished, there was nothing left, and she said, 'I don't know how they could have survived,' and so the whole time I was trying to get from work to the school I am hysterically crying."


When Rachquel Brown arrived she quickly reunited with her 11-year-old twin boys, but couldn't find her daughter. She recalled, "Luckily her teacher was there and she came to me and said, 'Courtney went to the hospital. She's OK. She was bleeding, but she's OK'."

Courtney said she's sad her school has turned "into crumbles."

The Browns' home was also destroyed. Still, Courtney's mom considers herself lucky. "I wasn't even really worried about my house, and I'm still not worried about my house," Rachquel Brown said. "My biggest worry was my children, so as long as they were OK, I'm good. I can replace everything else."

Another survivor, third-grade teacher Jennifer Doan, was also pulled from the piles of rubble that once was Plaza Towers Elementary School.

The pregnant teacher used her body as a shield to protect her students. Because of her bravery, at least one boy survived. Struggling to speak from her hospital bed, she said of her class, "They're a bright bunch."

Watch Doan's story in the video below.

Seven of Doan's 20 students were killed when the tornado ripped through Moore.

Doan said before the tornado struck she said she was trying to keep her students calm, telling them that it was going to be OK.

Within minutes, the tornado tore the school apart.

Doan said she had her arms around two students. "I just kept saying someone will come for us," she said, crying. "I don't know how long we were stuck and somebody finally came and they knew we were there. They knew we were there. So they kept digging. They kept digging for us. And they got the student right next to me out. I know that."

When rescuers pulled Jennifer from the rubble she says all she could think of was her students. She said she doesn't consider herself a hero.

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