Fayetteville students empathize with Okla. tornado survivors

Posted May 21, 2013 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2013 5:52 p.m. EDT

— Fifth-graders at Ben Martin Elementary School in Fayetteville have a new roof, new fire alarms and a security system two years after a tornado ripped the roof off their school.

That storm, on April 16, 2011, hit on a Saturday, so students were not in class. But those who remember the warnings, the damage and months without a place to call their own know the emotional recovery faced by students and teachers from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla.

"When storms come, I start to get nervous, and I think what happened in April 2011," said Katelynn Pylant. "I saw the top of buildings. It was really scary. If we were in school that day ..."

She thinks again of Ben Martin when she sees images of the destruction in Oklahoma. 

"Oklahoma was really worse, really bad, because kids were in school at the time," Katelynn said.

There have been no changes in safety protocol at Ben Martin, but Principal Crystal Brown said her students and staff are prepared. They have tornado drills at least three times a year.

"In each classroom, there's a map that shows teachers and students where they're supposed to be," she added. "When we say tuck and duck, they know exactly what to do."

"I've always taken drills seriously, but now I'm just like, a lot more serious than I was before it happened," said student Jacob Ryan.

On Tuesday, Brown said she hoped that Plaza Towers could see an outcome as positive as she had in Fayetteville. 

"I do wish them a lot of luck in the rebuilding process, and I hope as a community they'll be able to pull together and support one another in this great time of need," she said.

In Wake County, the policy is to have at least one tornado drill a year in each school.