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Two girls survive after clinging to each other while tornado ripped apart Tulsa Whataburger

Posted at 8:12 AM, Aug 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-08 08:12:10-04

TULSA -- Two girls clung to each other for survival, as a tornado ripped apart the fast food restaurant around them early Sunday morning.

Sydney Verner and Kaitlyn Gardner, both 18, said they went to a Whataburger in Tulsa leaving another friend's house. They said it started to storm outside around the time they finished their food, then a tornado struck without much notice.

"The doors flew open. The lights flickered," Verner said. "We were mid-air to get on the ground, and the glass just shattered."

Verner said she grabbed onto the leg of a table, but she started sliding across the floor. That's when Gardner jumped on her friend's back.

"I think that's why my body is so sore because I was literally holding onto not anything but her and holding her down on the ground," Gardner said.

She said she did what anyone else would do to protect a friend, but Verner cannot hide her emotions thinking about how selfless her friend was.

"You're putting yourself at 10 times more danger jumping on somebody," Verner said, wiping away tears. "She really was my hero. She was my guardian angel."

The girls said the storm passed after only a few seconds, and Verner realized she'd been hurt. Doctors said a piece of metal went in her backside, pierced her back and came out again. "It was kind of like I got stabbed," Verner said.

Somehow the metal missed vital organs and her spinal cord, mystifying even the doctors.

"I'm just super blessed to be able to be here and be able to walk," Verner said.

Gardner walked away with only cuts and bruises, so doctors expect she and her friend to make full recoveries. That's good news for Verner since she's supposed to move next week to Oklahoma State University to start her freshman year of college.

"I definitely feel like everybody in that Whataburger, and anybody affected by that tornado, was definitely more blessed than they were lucky," Verner said.

City inspectors condemned the restaurant Monday morning because of the extensive damage.