Woman Loses Legs After Saving Her Children in Indiana Tornado

Stephanie Decker had thrown herself on top of her children when the tornado hit.

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Decker Family / AP

This photo, provided by Joe Decker, shows him with his 36-year-old wife, Stephanie Decker. Stephanie lost parts of both her legs when the family's home collapsed onto her Friday in Marysville, Ind., as she was shielding their two children from a devastating tornado.

Natural disasters are inevitably tales of horror, but they often come with beautiful subplots—tales of heroism and narrow escapes. One Indiana father has been telling one such story, about how his wife saved their children when a tornado hit the Heartland.

According to the Associated Press, Stephanie Decker, a 36-year-old sleep specialist, was at home with her 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter on March 2. They live in Marysville, Ind., part of the tiny Oregon Township. Her husband, Joe, was at a nearby high school, where he teaches algebra. With warnings sounded and his building locked down, he considered making a run for their home in Marysville. Instead, he says, he sent his wife a text message to make sure she and the children were protecting themselves the best they could in their three-story, brick-and-stone house.

(MORE: Tornadoes Devastate Marysville and Henrysville in Indiana)

She bound the children and herself with a blanket and watched through the windows in their walk-out basement as the tornado came toward them across the family’s 15 acres. Decker said his wife sent a text saying the whole house was shaking. He asked if they were okay, but his wife didn’t answer. She was wedged under debris of their collapsed house, having thrown herself on top of her children when the twister hit. Her son, Dominic, soon ran for help. Neighbors brought a deputy who tied tourniquets around her limbs. Though the children were unharmed, Decker lost parts of both her legs: one above the knee and another above the ankle.

(PHOTOS: Top 10 Deadliest U.S. Tornadoes)

Thirteen people died in Indiana during Friday’s tornadoes; a total of 39 died in five states. Those who survived, like the Decker family, will all have stories of their own. In a small town, a storm like that becomes the where-were-you moment the collective shares and swaps and rehashes.

“I told her, ‘[The kids are] here because of you,’ ” Joe Decker told the AP by telephone from the University of Louisville Hospital. “I let her know that nothing else matters. I said, ‘You’re going to be here for your kids, and you get to see them grow up.’ “

MORE: Baby Found in Indiana Field Dies After Devastating Tornado