When an F4 tornado ripped through Henryville, Indiana five years ago, Stephanie Decker and her kids, Dominic, 8, and Reese, 5, headed into the basement of their home to try and wait out the storm. Instead, the storm lifted the home up and sent debris flying, and Decker did what she needed to do to protect her children, losing both her legs in the process.
“I don’t even think twice about it,” Decker said of the moment on a new episode of People Icons: Heroes & Survivors. “I wouldn’t change it for a million bucks. Things happen for a reason. It was my time to step up.”
When the storm hit, Decker and her kids went downstairs when things took a turn for the worse.
“I looked up and I saw our trampoline that was staked in the ground go flying across the yard,” Decker said. “Then the entire house started to shake. I became petrified at that point and one of the windows busted in.”
So she took a blanket, wrapped her children on it and lay on top of them as a 20-foot steel eye beam from the home fell towards her.
“I could see it in slow motion,” she said. “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.'”
As a result, her legs were crushed and she could only move her upper body when another tornado, an F2, came in and ripped a pillar off their home.
“The pillar was coming straight for my daughter’s head,” Decker 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.”
Thanks to Decker, her daughter was safe, and Decker has since dedicated her life to making a positive impact for others by starting the Stephanie Decker Foundation, which has helped 250 children who have lost limbs attend a local sports camp, and traveling as a motivational speaker.
“I love the impossible,” she said. “That’s my forte.”
Decker's episode of People Icons: Heroes & Survivors airs Tuesday, March 14, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.
H/T / Twitter / Ben Pine