ABC’s People Icons tonight tells the incredible story of Stephanie Decker, the mom who lost her legs saving her two kids in two separate tornadoes.
Stephanie’s ordeal began on March 2, 2012, as tornadoes devastated the town of Henryville, Indiana. She got back home with her two kids, Dominic, then 8, and Reese, then 5, just as a first tornado was starting to hit hard.
Realising the danger, she started to take Dominic and Reese into the basement. At that point, she told People: “I looked up and I saw our trampoline that was staked in the ground go flying across the yard.
“Then the entire house started to shake. I became petrified at that point and one of the windows busted in.”
The 175mph tornado was ripping through their home. As Dominic says in the clip below: “I heard this noise… it sounded like a train was about to run over our house.”
They made it to the basement, but then disaster struck. A 20-foot steel beam, which had been holding the house up, started to fall towards them.
“I could see it in slow motion,” Stephanie told People. “I was covered in bricks and stones. I could let go of them, move the stuff off me and get away from that beam.
“I chose to let the beam fall instead of letting go of my kids. The feeling was, ‘I’d rather get my arms ripped off instead of letting go of my kids.’”
Stephanie’s bravery saved her children, but resulted in her legs being crushed under the beam. Plus, she was now trapped and there was a second tornado heading their way.
When this tornado hit, it pulled a pillar off the house. “The pillar was coming straight for my daughter’s head,” she said. “Now that I only have upper-body movement I can’t cover them so I’m twisting back and forth taking the brunt of the flying debris. I twisted my body and it broke eight ribs and punctured my lung.”
Stephanie’s heroic acts meant that her kids were safe. But her inspirational story doesn’t end there.
Incredibly, Stephanie appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and danced with the host just two months after her accident. She and her family also met President Obama at The White House.
Stephanie then went on to start The Stephanie Decker Foundation, which aims to help children get access to leading-edge prosthetics and get them involved in sports.
This work saw her nominated as a L’Oreal Woman of Worth finalist, and she also now travels the length and breadth of the country as a motivational speaker.
People Icons airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on ABC.