MOORE, Okla. -- They say you should never make a big decision when you're emotional -- but what if there's barely a moment to think and a life-or-death choice looming?
In those last horrifying minutes before the EF5 tornado struck, there was no time for reflection or regret. Just questions needing answers. Right now.
Does a pregnant woman go find her daughter or protect the life growing inside her?
Does a husband risk his life to go back for the family pets?
Do you listen to a spouse on the other end of the telephone or to the little voice in your heart?
With death staring them in the face and adrenaline coursing through their veins, the citizens of Moore were faced with the biggest decisions of their lives, and they had nothing to go on but gut instinct amid raw terror.
'Come on, babies! We're going!'
As she ran from room to room, Cindy Sasnett prayed to God for help and cursed herself for not being better prepared.
"What was I thinking?" she scolded herself for not insisting they build a storm shelter. "We should have had one. If anything, for the children."
The day of the tornado, husband Jim Sasnett, a machinist, was at work about 10 miles away, in Oklahoma City. Cindy, who runs a day care out of their 1,600-square-foot house, had six charges that day, including her 2-year-old grandson, Jack.
About an hour and a half before the storm hit, parents of four kids had come to retrieve them. The fifth, Rob Willis, was on his way from Edmond to get 2-year-old Cade, but was stuck in traffic.
The couple had talked about installing a shelter after devastating tornadoes struck Moore in 1999 and again in 2003, but lack of funds or just rank procrastination always seemed to conquer the fear.
Now, Cindy Sasnett was petrified.
She called her husband, and he told her it looked as if the storm might turn away from their home. But she couldn't get over her feelings of unease.
She was looking to another source for guidance.
"God, it's here," she prayed. "What do I do, Lord?"
She raced into their bedroom, where she kept her mother's ashes. As she stood in the doorway, a little voice said, "No. Go." She ran to a closet, then to a hallway, and confronted the same whisperings.
Suddenly, she heard the television announcer say that the tornado was heading for her area, and that no one without a shelter could survive. She grabbed the children and said, "Come on, babies. We're going."
Dirt and bits of leaf pelted the 50-year-old grandmother as she strapped Jack and Cade into their car seats. Cade looked up and pointed.
"Look!" he shouted. "Tornado!" Jack joined in.
She slammed the SUV into gear and raced up the street ahead. Glancing over her shoulder, her eyes clouded with tears, she thought how strange it would be to survive the storm, only to die in a car crash.
Now, Jim was her guide, on the cellphone. Watching the storm's progress on TV at work, he told her to head toward Sunnylane Road, turn right, then go south.
Cindy circled until the radio announcer said it was safe for Moore residents to return. When she got back to the house, every room in which she'd considered taking shelter was demolished.
A couple of hours later, Rob Willis came staggering up the street. He wrapped her in a bear hug and thanked her again and again for saving his only child.
Cindy wants two things to come from their experience. She hopes Jim will fully accept Jesus into his life.
And she wants their next home to have a shelter.
'My friend's mommy got sucked up by the tornado'
Leslie Paul knew that her son was safe.
Husband Scott, an Oklahoma County sheriff's deputy, had been wanting to spend more time with the kids. So, on Monday, he took 4-year-old Hayden with him to the command center off Interstate 35 at SW 29th Street.
But 7-year-old Addison was at Oak Ridge Elementary. Not yet sure where the tornado was headed, Leslie jumped in the car and went to get her daughter.
She didn't get far.
Alarmed by the deteriorating conditions and eight months pregnant, Paul decided to take shelter at Crossroads Cathedral, just east of Santa Fe Avenue. When she arrived at the reinforced choir room at the building's center, a couple hundred people were already huddled there.
Emerging from the church after the tornado had passed, she found the roads choked with debris. On foot, she headed out on the 9-mile trek to the school.
Addison and her classmates had ridden out the storm in the hallways. The tornado caused only superficial damage, and the kids were moved to the cafeteria to await their parents.
As she waited, a classmate's father arrived to retrieve him. Addison overheard the man telling the boy that his mother had been killed.
Finally, after four hours, Leslie Paul made it to the school. A teacher brought Addison out, and the two fell into each other's arms, weeping.
"Mommy," Addison sobbed. "My friend's mommy got sucked up by the tornado. And I was afraid that that would happen to you, and that I would never see you again."
The two held each other hard for about 10 minutes. Then they headed out, Addison clutching her mother's hand tightly.
They had walked for a while before Leslie was able to raise someone on her cellphone to come pick them up.
That evening, Addison talked animatedly for two hours about what had gone on at school. Then, suddenly, she broke down in tears. She cried for more than an hour.
When the family returned to their home on Tuesday, there wasn't a wall standing. Leslie Paul had gone to rescue Addison, but the little blond girl might have ended up saving her.
Digging through the rubble for something that might help comfort Addison, they found one of her favorite dolls -- a Raggedy Ann.
Scott and Leslie Paul shared a birthday Friday -- he turned 30, she 27. They celebrated at the Oklahoma City hotel provided by their insurance company.
Addison's little sister is due in June 10. The Pauls plan to name her Faith.
'We're going to lose it all!'
It was Correctional Officer Scott Evenson's first day back to work after a lengthy illness, and he was tired after his overnight shift. Returning home around 9:15 a.m. Monday, he fixed 2-year-old Macie a bowl of Cheerios, munched on a bagel and then slipped off to bed.
He and Kimberly, eight months pregnant with their second child, were renting her grandparents' old home on South Broadway, not far from I-35 and the massive Warren Theater. They'd been in the house about two years, and had come to love it there.
The man across the street worked at Sara Lee, and would come by with gifts of fresh-baked bread; another neighbor was generous with his tools. The brick cottage was just a three-bedroom starter home, but the young couple -- he's 26, she's 27 -- one day hoped to have the money to buy it.
While Scott slept, Kimberly strapped Macie into the car to run some errands, despite the ominous warnings on the radio. She drove to the post office to mail her student loan payments, then went to drop off her Netflix movies.
Not long after reaching the house, her weather alert radio sounded. She woke her husband.
The man next door had invited them to use his underground shelter. Scott Evenson handed Macie over the chain-link fence and headed across the street with his wife to gather as many neighbors as they could.
By then, his mother, his sister's boyfriend and their 8-month old son had arrived. Their home had nearly been hit by Sunday's tornadoes, and they decided it would be safer here.
When they finally made it to the shelter, Scott Evenson noticed that one family had brought their two dogs, and he decided to go back for his. Odie, a 4-year-old pit bull mix, and Sammy, a 5-year-old dachshund, were both pound puppies.
The dogs were frantic. Each time Evenson got close, a loud noise would send them fleeing in the other direction.
How much longer could he do this? After a couple of minutes, he gave up and went outside. Pausing on the deck, he looked at the jungle gym they'd just bought for Macie from Craigslist. Swinging on it was her favorite thing in the world.
He'd just decided to make one last effort to corral the dogs when he looked up and saw a mass of mud, branches and leaves swirling his way. Hustling to the cellar door, he yanked it shut and shouted: "We're going to lose it all!"
Macie cried as her ears popped under the intense pressure. Scott Evenson hung on a nylon rope to keep the door shut as his wife huddled with the others in silent prayer.
When the danger was over, it took the group several minutes to free themselves. A 10-foot sycamore bough had fallen across the shelter door.