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Man credits teacher with saving children's lives

A child is pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., and passed along to rescuers Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado as much as a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide with winds up to 200 mph (320 kph) roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school.(AP Photo Sue Ogrocki) (Sue Ogrocki)
A child is pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., and passed along to rescuers Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado as much as a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide with winds up to 200 mph (320 kph) roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school.(AP Photo Sue Ogrocki) (Sue Ogrocki)
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Updated: 5/21/2013 2:47 pm
MOORE, Okla. (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 Moore 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.

[SLIDESHOW: MIDWEST TORNADOES]
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