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Mother's instinct saves lives of 3 sons as tornado approached home

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu May 23, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Terimy Miller puts her three small sons in the house closet as the tornado nears
  • But she gets a feeling: "I just got to get out of here. I'm not chancing this."
  • The mother drives her boys away from the house in Moore, Oklahoma
  • The home's eventual obliteration confirms she made the right decision

(CNN) -- Call it maternal instinct.

As the monster tornado approached, Terimy Miller put her three sons in a closet in their Moore, Oklahoma, house.

But something didn't feel right.

"It was just that feeling," Miller told CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Wednesday. "I just got to get out of here. I'm not chancing this."

An aerial view of the destruction caused by the massive tornado that struck areas south of Oklahoma City on Monday, May 20, shows the magnitude of damage left in its path. The storm's winds topped 200 mph as it carved a 17-mile path of destruction through Oklahoma City suburbs. On Tuesday, May 21, CNN sent photographer David McNeese to capture the story from above: An aerial view of the destruction caused by the massive tornado that struck areas south of Oklahoma City on Monday, May 20, shows the magnitude of damage left in its path. The storm's winds topped 200 mph as it carved a 17-mile path of destruction through Oklahoma City suburbs. On Tuesday, May 21, CNN sent photographer David McNeese to capture the story from above:
The path of destruction from above
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Photos: Destruction from above Photos: Destruction from above
A message is left by a homeowner who lost his home in the May 20 tornado on Monday, May 27, in Moore, Oklahoma. View more photos of the aftermath in the region and another gallery of aerial shots of the damage. A message is left by a homeowner who lost his home in the May 20 tornado on Monday, May 27, in Moore, Oklahoma. View more photos of the aftermath in the region and another gallery of aerial shots of the damage.
Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma City area
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Photos: Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma Photos: Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma
Husband ripped away from wife in tornado
Comfort dogs help with healing

So she put her three boys -- ages 11, 7 and 6 -- in the family car.

She was moving so fast that she couldn't round up the two family dogs, which were somewhere outside.

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As they prepared their escape, she and son Jules heard a local weatherman on television advise families in Moore that if they didn't have a storm shelter, they should abandon the house.

"We got away from the storm," said son Jules, 7.

Confirmation of the mother's intuition came when she and her boys returned to the house.

Miller hyperventilated. She cried.

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The tornado had annihilated the home.

"We walk up and it's gone," Miller said. "I'm like, no, this can't be happening. Why?

"It's a war zone," she said.

Added her son: "The thunderstorm took away all my favorite stuff. It's gone."

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Miller lost the sentimental photos, yearbooks, and mementos from her days in the Navy. Her memories will now have to suffice, she said.

As for the dogs, they survived, but one of them will lose his right eye, injured by the twister.

Despite the material losses, Miller counts her blessings.

"We're lucky: I have my children and everything will be OK," she said.

The family will rebuild the home, she added.

Storm-scattered mementos finding their homes via Facebook

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