From this morning’s L.A. Times:
She teaches at a school where children were killed. He’s a funeral director who is helping the families.
. . . The morning of the storm, Preston had an apprehensive feeling. They had taken shelter a day earlier when tornadoes hit the state. Forecasters said Monday would be worse. He drove to his boss’ house, which has a storm shelter.
At Plaza Towers Nikki and her 26 students were reading ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ by C.S. Lewis when the principal warned them by intercom to take shelter. They were on the chapter where Aslan, the lion, begins to sing in the darkness, bringing Narnia into existence. Sometimes, his voice seemed to be that of the Earth itself.
Nikki had talked to her students that morning about what to do in a tornado. They’d been through the drill before. Get in the basement. Or a cellar. A bathtub if you don’t have anywhere to go underground.
Her phone rang. It was Preston.
He said, ‘It’s coming; it’s going to hit you,'” Nikki said. She told him she was scared. Then her phone went dead.
Plaza Towers had no storm shelter. Nikki and the other teachers took their students to a bathroom, where they all huddled on the floor. . .
The teachers were getting news on their phones from family and friends. They knew the school would take a direct hit.
“Everyone was praying out loud,” Nikki said. “Some people were on the phone with their husbands, their loved ones, saying goodbye.”
The floor started to vibrate. The twister roared. So did the walls as the tornado tore the school apart.
“God help us!” people yelled. “God save us! We don’t want to die!”
Nikki prayed for a Scripture to get her through. Psalm 91:4 came to mind: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” She recited the verse aloud.
“I was praying really loud,” she said, “and at that moment the tornado was above us, and I felt the hand of God on my back like a soft pillow, and I knew I was going to be all right.”
When the storm passed, the walls were gone. . . The children crawled out over the rubble. . .
I like this story on so many levels. I like the fact that when it really matters no human leader, law, or institution can keep prayer out of the public school. I like the fact that in what might have been their last few moments, children were hearing a teacher pray aloud.
I like it that the last book read to them in that hour was a book by C.S. Lewis and that the specific scene they were hearing described Aslan singing the world into being, about the miracle of creation and the power of the Creator.
And I especially, especially like the fact it turned out not to be their last hour, their last few moments, that these children survived and that in their ears Aslan is still singing and their teacher is still praying “really loud” and they know faith works and prayer works and God is real.
“A couple’s intimate view of a tragedy,” by Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2013. firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: I let the author know I’d posted part of her story about Nikki and Preston McCurtain. She wrote back, “Thanks, Jessica, Beautiful! I’ll share your blog with Nikki. I’m sure she’ll be honored. Thanks for sharing!”