When weather reports indicated a tornado heading directly toward Moore, Okla., on Monday afternoon, Southmoore High School football coach Jeff Brickman obviously cancelled spring practice. Instead, players and coaches awaited the storm by reviewing video of the previous day's practice while tucked inside the school.
"Then it hit right when school was about to let out," Brickman told Tulsa World sports columnist John E. Hoover. "All the kids in school were in shelters and we had a bunch of kids in the field house with helmets on in the bathrooms. It was pretty terrifying. It came right by the school."
The video of a massive funnel cloud tearing through an area just beyond Southmoore's athletic facilities became one of the lasting images projected to the world in the early hours after the storm left large swathes of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area in ruins.
In a gripping piece posted online Wednesday, Hoover retraces the coach's experience inside the school as Brickman and his wife, Brandi - a cheer sponsor at Southmoore - acted swiftly to keep students safe.
When the sirens went off, the cheer squad was in the gymnasium. Brandi Brickman hustled the girls into "a little closet that's underneath the bleachers and put (tumbling) mats on them," Jeff Brickman said.
"I went out to the door and saw it, and then I left and went back and it looked like it was maybe a hundred yards from the school. The doors were shaking and there was stuff going everywhere. I'd never seen anything like that."
Brickman tried to summarize his emotions during the crisis. It wasn't easy.
"You say prayers. All those girls were crying. They thought, you know, that was it," he said. "Luckily for us, but obviously not for other people, it missed us by about a hundred yards."
Nearly six hours after the winds subsided, Brickman said he knew of about a dozen Southmoore players whose homes had been leveled. He ventured a guess that the Moore School District, only three days from summer vacation, likely would cancel classes for the rest of the year.
"I would guess probably 200 to 300 kids at our school lost their homes," Brickman said.
Multiple phone calls and text messages to Moore coaches and administrators either went straight to voicemail or were clipped by a busy signal. There are electrical and land-line phone outages across the area, and what cell phone towers aren't torn to bits are choked with too much traffic.
"We're still trying to get more information," Brickman said. "Everything down here's shut down and you can't get anywhere. I've been trying to do text messaging and just word of mouth, but it's tough."