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Heroic Teacher - Karen Marinelli

Plaza Towers Elementary School teacher Karen Marinelli saved three students’ lives during the May 2013 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma.
Heroic Teacher - Karen Marinelli

Heroic Teacher - Karen Marinelli

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Top 10 Deadliest Oklahoma Tornadoes

Where Was God?

Steven Earp

Show Details

Show 1716: Heroic Teacher - Karen Marinelli
Air Date: April 16, 2017



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Oklahomans are no strangers to spring storms, and in May of 2013, we were reminded just how devastating they can be. On May 20, a killer tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, taking 25 lives, some of those children huddled in the hallways of their school. Then not two weeks later, another tornado hits in El Reno, the largest ever recorded. But what began in tragedy has ended in resiliency. And we begin today with the inspiring story of the Oklahoma teacher who risked everything to save her students.

Alise Newby: And as the freight train noise starts, things start hitting the top of the shelter, and I keep thinking, OK, this is it, this is it. And it just gets louder and it gets louder. And then our ears start to pop. I’m thinking my son; my son is in that school. So I just prayed.

Rob: It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.

Alise: I just kept saying out loud, “God, please protect the children. God, please save my son. Please protect my son. Please save the children.” And that’s all we could say and I mean, I was just screaming it over and over just trying to block out the noise.

Rob: And a tragic reality for Alise Newby.

Newsman: Guys, as you’re tracking this we’ve got to tell you a school down in Moore, we know a school in Moore has been hit, an elementary school.

Newswoman: We’re also getting word that some kids may be trapped.

Karen Marinelli: A wall fell down, and it was immediately just so crushing of a feeling. I mean, I immediately thought we’re gone, we’re gonna die. It was immediate.

Rob: First grade teacher Karen Marinelli.

Karen: I just kept praying, you know, just please keep us safe. Please, like, help me to breathe. And I kept trying to calm myself down because, you know, you can’t even move. So I just continuously prayed that we would make it through, that the weight of the wall wouldn’t come down anymore.

Rob: And under her, unharmed, Alise’s son, Liam.

Alise: All the teachers in the halls that day had thrown themselves over what students they had remaining. And Ms. Marinelli happened to have the three smallest boys left in her class. And she was able to wrap herself completely around them.

Chase Newby: After they pulled her out and while they had her at the hospital, all she wanted to know was, you know, are my boys OK. And she hadn’t heard anything. And of course, we didn’t know that she had been injured. You know, we knew it was a miracle that he was OK, but we didn’t know how that was possible.

Alise: We immediately went up to OU Medical Center where she was at the hospital.

Karen: And as soon as they opened the door, I knew that they knew, that they knew that he was with me, that he was under me because I don’t even think Alise said a word. I mean, she just burst into tears and ran over to me and hugged me and basically just told me thank you for saving her baby.

Rob McClendon: Now, despite severe injuries, we are happy to tell you Karen Marinelli was able to have her first child exactly one year after having saved the children of others. Now, if you would like to see more inspiring stories from the Moore tornado, the entire film “Where Was God?” is streaming on YouTube, and we do have a link to it under this story at When we return, Canadian Valley Strong.

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