May 21st, 2013
11:05 PM ET

Teacher used music to calm children during tornado

Anderson Cooper talks with teacher Waynel Mayes about what it was like in her classroom when the tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma on Monday. Plaza Towers Elementary School was destroyed as winds that peaked around 200 mph caused widespread damage in the town.

Mayes gave instruments to her students and told them to play loudly and sing "Jesus Loves Me" as a way to drown out the frightening sounds of the storm passing through. "I said, 'When you get scared, you can scream, but keep playing, keep playing, keep playing. And we did it," she says.

The school had practiced emergency safety procedures, and Mayes says it helped that the students listened to directions when the disaster hit. Residents pulled her and the children from the rubble into a chaotic scene as parents frantically searched for their loved ones.

Trenda Purcell found her son Kamden waiting with Mayes. The incredibly emotional moment was caught on camera. Purcell was overjoyed to see her son alive. "I was praising her (Mayes)  because I just feel that she helped keep him safe," she says.

In response, Mayes repeatedly told Purcell how brave Kamden was during the ordeal. "They were the heroes, because they listened to all the teachers," she says about her young students.


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Filed under: Tornadoes • Weather
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Linda Osadchey

    A very touching story and an incredibly creative teacher. Perhaps, she should be included in nominations for "Teacher of the Year." Think of how many precious young lives she saved. An unsung hero.

    May 22, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  2. Sylvia

    Yes, Jesus DOES love these little children and that teacher is simply amazing!

    May 22, 2013 at 2:06 am |