Okla. medic reunites with family she rescued from tornado-smashed house
"It's nice to see how they are doing," said Norman Regional Emergency EMSSTAT Paramedic Meagan Tompkins, who was one of the first to arrive
By Brian D. King
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN, Okla. — Francis Tabler and her three children were trapped inside their crumbling home on Frost Lane after a tornado had smacked it around. It was dark and loud and gas from a broken meter spewed.
"Everything happened so fast," Tabler recalled Thursday. "Windows began to shatter. "It was very traumatic."
Within 25 minutes, two paramedics rescued the family amid the rubble of what was their house. Thursday afternoon, Tabler and her kids reunited with one of their rescuers in a ceremony at Norman Regional Nine on the city's southeast side.
Tabler doesn't remember everything that happened Sunday night. Her children, 12, 10, and 7, were fished out by Norman Regional Emergency EMSSTAT paramedics Meagan Tompkins and David McCoy, the first two people on the scene.
Tompkins kicked down the front door, which was locked, and found the family huddled inside the house without their shoes. The paramedics removed everyone from the house, as well as Gracie the dog.
Tabler and McCoy were not wearing proper protective gear, which made the mission all the more perilous. McCoy was struck on the head by a collapsing beam, but he finished his the job at hand.
"While I was taking the boy out, a beam fell and it hit him in the head and cut his arm," Tompkins said. "He had Steri Strips put in to close it, but he is fine."
Tabler said the tornado struck the house at 9:20 p.m., and the paramedics arrived around 9:45. She said the experience felt much longer than 25 minutes.
"We didn't know the gas was going off. We were coughing. Everything was coming 100 miles per hour," she said. "It was circulating. Insulation was swirling around like a snow globe. I can't believe I have no injuries after what was flying around."
Tompkins said she had never reunited with anyone she has saved before Thursday.
"It is a first to say the least, Tompkins said. "A lot of times we have them for 15-20 minutes from drop off. It's nice to see how they are doing after the fact."
At the time, Tabler said she wasn't sure her home had been hit by a tornado. She received an alert, and within a minute her house started to fall apart. She smelled the gas, but wasn't sure what it was.
"I talked to one of my daughters. I called 911," she said.
One of her adult daughters arrived around the same time as paramedics.
"Gas was spewing in the house and I had no clue," she said. "We had a bit of trouble hearing. We didn't really know it was a tornado."
The roof fell on the front side of the house, in the road, and part of the ceiling fell down, trapping them. Tompkins said the family was disoriented because of the trauma and the darkness.
"I think in the moment, it was pitch dark, and it was disorienting from everything that happened," Tompkins said. "It prevented them from knowing where they were. They thought they were in a different part of the house initially."
The two first responders were honored by EMSSTAT with its Heroism Award.
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