When the principal got back to the front of the school, the tornado was nearly on top of them. She got on the intercom one more time.
Rising from the rubble
Simpson huddled in a bathroom with four other women. "The only time I yelled (I said), 'In God's name, go away, go away.' I said it about four times."
Debris was still flying when Simpson pushed out the door, stepped over a sink, and noticed "the whole neighborhood was gone."
Somehow, her phone rang. It was her mother, and she told her to call 911.
There were no more walls left in her school. The bumper of a car sat between the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.
"I could see the kids peeking around what used to be a corner," Simpson said.
Justin Ayres, a fifth-grade teacher who was the first to spot the twister, was the first one out on one side of what had been the school. Men and women, meanwhile, were running foward to help.
Within minutes, Simpson recalled, the pre-K, kindergarten and first graders were safely out. Her husband soon arrived and put his hand on her shoulder.
"I said, 'Go help second and third grade,'" referring to those students who were in a different, nearby building. "I haven't seen any of them yet."
More and more students emerged, some of them heading to a nearby church. But what had been the second- and third-grade building was precarious, at best.
"I made my way around there, then I begged and pleaded for the human chain to get me up there," Simpson said. "They did. And they were pulling out students and teachers."
All seven killed at Plaza Towers died in that rubble.
"The rest of the evening was a nightmare."
'They grew up really fast'
Briarwood Elementary Principal Shelley Jaques-McMillin's first impression of Monday?
"I remember thinking, "Yeah, it's sunny! So we're going to be able to go outside."
School started, as it always does, with what's called the Grizzly Growl -- a time for singing, dancing, celebrating.
"(I remember) the happy faces, how excited they were, just seeing them smile," said Jaques-McMillin. And there was laughter when a special guest -- a sheep -- made a special appearance. Staffers had to give it a kiss, because a group of students had reached their reading goal.