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Man credits teacher with saving children's lives

Tuesday - 5/21/2013, 4:48pm  ET

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The father of an 8-year-old Oklahoma boy says a teacher saved his son's life as a tornado tore into their school yesterday.

David Wheeler says the teacher at Briarwood Elementary in Oklahoma City took students into a closet and shielded them with her arms as the tornado collapsed the roof and starting lifting children upward. He says the pull was so strong that it sucked the glasses off their faces.

As the tornado approached, students at Briarwood Elementary were sent into the halls. But Wheeler says third-grade teacher Julie Simon thought it didn't look safe, so she ushered the children into a closet instead.

In Wheeler's words, "She saved their lives by putting them in a closet and holding their heads down."

Wheeler says he raced to the school through blinding rain and gusting wind. When he got there, he says "it was like the earth was wiped clean."

He eventually found his son, Gabriel, sitting with the teacher who had protected him. His back was cut and bruised and gravel was embedded in his head, but he was alive.

%@AP Links

193-a-11-(David Wheeler, Oklahoma City resident, in AP interview)-"of my life"-David Wheeler details what it was like searching for his 8-year-old son Gabriel, who was at Briarwood Elementary School during the tornado and was injured. (21 May 2013)

<> 00:11 "of my life"

196-r-31-(Sound of Trenda Purcell, mother reuniting with her son, a grade schooler at Briarwood Elementary, after yesterday's tornado, recorded Monday May 20, 2013)-"so brave (several times)"-This is sound of Trenda Purcell reuniting with her son, a grade schooler at Briarwood Elementary, and thanking his caregiver, on May 20. COURTESY: NewsOK ((mandatory on-air credit)) (21 May 2013)

<> 00:31 "so brave (several times)"

APPHOTO OKTG101: An aerial view of Briarwood Elementary that was damaged in Monday's tornado Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Oklahoma. A huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, flattening an entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) (21 May 2013)

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