West Tulsa Gymnastics Academy Owner Thanks God For Protection
TULSA, Oklahoma - The rescue at Aim High Academy in west Tulsa is one of the most compelling we've seen, as firefighters carried frightened little girls, one-by-one, to their parents cars.
The room came down, but everyone inside was safe because the coaches had a plan.
Images of barefoot little girls wearing gymnastics leotards - some covered up with borrowed fire jackets or helmets - being carried to safety in the arms of Tulsa firefighters captured hearts.
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"We love to come to come to work every day and stuff like this is what we do our job for,” said Tulsa firefighter, Evan Baker.
Baker and the rest of the firefighters are the most visible heroes, but behind the scenes was Aim High Academy owner, Jennifer Patterson.
“I just tried to be strong for the kids and I just tried to be smart,” she said. “I think the Holy Spirit intervened, too.”
Patterson founded the faith-based non-profit in 2007 and moved into a much bigger building on Charles Page in 2013.
Now, less than two years later, even though the walls have crumbled, she's still praising God.
“I'm so thankful. I'm so thankful to God. He was so protective over every, single one of us,” Patterson said.
She and several others were coaching about 50 little girls ages three to 15; it was a practice just like any other day until the sky changed.
“We heard the sirens,” Patterson said. “I was like, ‘let's move,” and I'm so glad that I did, so I just want to encourage everybody else, that if you hear those sirens, you take shelter immediately.”
They piled into the basement and listened as the roof collapsed.
The young girls screamed when the lights went out and as water began to flood the shelter; but through the fear, there was a calm, according to 10-year-old Shiloh Sells.
“I was scared and all we did was praise God that we were still alive,” she said.
They were shaken, but still strong.
“Our theme around here is ‘God made me special.' And we teach that to our kids, and if this isn't proof that God made them special, he spared their lives and each one of them are special with a purpose and a plan,” Patterson said.
There are a lot of questions as to what's next.
First, there's a gymnastics meet that the girls will be at Friday in Bartlesville.
There's an online donation site that's raised nearly $30,000 in less than 24 hours, and many other gyms have offered up space for Aim High's 270 gymnasts to practice.