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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 21st, 2013
08:05 PM ET

Oklahoma tornado: From massive damage, to family reunions

The day after a deadly, powerful tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, rescuers urgently, frantically searched for survivors. Entire neighborhoods were blown apart, homes were blasted to nothing but splinters and pebbles, and trees were uprooted like weeds. Rubble towered over survivors' heads. Debris turned up at least a hundred miles away.

"I've never seen anything like this. And I probably hope to never see anything like this again," said one eye witness.

Today, condolences for the tornado victims rolled in from all across the world. The president vowed to give all the help that is needed in the face of utter devastation.

"There will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed, but you will not travel that path alone. Your country will travel it with you, fueled by our faith in the almighty, and our faith in one another," President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

The tornado hit just about 24 hours ago, all of it playing out live on television. The country watched helplessly as people in the region rushed to get out of harm's way.

Many of us have seen footage of tornadoes before, but it only took a glance to know this one was different. Not so much a twisting column, but a roving leviathan, at least two miles wide by the time it tore through the town of Moore, Oklahoma.

The gigantic tornado raked across the suburbs of Oklahoma City, covering 17 miles in the span of 40 minutes. To everyone's horror, two elementary schools stood directly in its path. It hit just as the school day was ending. Children scrambled for safety, teachers attempted to shield them, all with the monster on the horizon.

"We had to pull a car out of the front hallway off a teacher. I don't know what that lady's name is, but she had three little kids underneath her. Good job teach," said one witness, choking back on tears.

"His teacher saved his life," one mother told local television station KFOR, her young son at her side.

"Who's his teacher?" asked the reporter

"Mrs. Lowe, I have no doubt that God and his teacher, I mean, they lifted a wall off of these kids," said the mother.

Parents suffered unbearable moments of uncertainty. They sent their little ones off to school that morning, never imagining that it could be the last time they'd ever see them.

For the lucky parents, there was ultimate, intense relief, and hugs they never wanted to end.

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