The mother then embraced the teacher. "Thank you," she wept, "thank you."
Jim Routon, who showed up to help at the school, held his arm up and shouted, "5th graders!" But, of course, parents and kids continued to wander, desperate, scared. It was a valiant effort though -- trying to offer order where none could be found.
Three hours of emotional torture
Janna Ketchie was trapped at work, unable to get on the road because of downed power lines. She texted, desperate for news about her two boys at a day-care center.
It was next to Briarwood Elementary, which Ketchie knew was badly damaged.
"Those three hours where I didn't hear anything, they were the longest three hours of my life," she said. "Knowing I'd never see them again. No mother should ever have to go through that."
But she did see them again, thanks to a teacher who covered her 3-year-old and 6-week-old with a mattress and her body.
Grayson Ketchie suffered a head wound and an ear injury. His baby brother? Unscathed.
"It's a miracle, an absolute miracle," said Rick Roberts, one of the boys' grandfathers.
A day after the 200-mph twister knocked down his building, Grayson was in a playful mood, happily reunited with his family.
When asked what happened to the day-care facility, he said, "Broke!"
No one at the center was killed, officials said.
An elementary school mourns
While Briarwood families found their children, it was far worse for parents with kids at Plaza Towers Elementary School. The building was reduced to just a few walls.
Monday night a father sat on a stool, tears in his eyes, as a firefighter tried to comfort him.
He awaited news of his son, a third-grader. At least seven children were killed at the school, police said.
Students who managed to escape said they hugged and clung to walls as the tornado passed through, according to CNN affiliate KFOR.
One teacher told KFOR that she lay on top of six students in the bathroom. They survived.
Norma Bautista told CNN that when she arrived, she found her child and nieces and nephews and took them away.
"I am speechless as [to] how this happened, why it happened," she said. "How do we explain it to the kids?"