06/12/2013 05:06 pm ET Updated Aug 12, 2013

Service in the Face of Disaster - Honoring Oklahoma Teachers

As a massive tornado touched ground and headed for Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20, it became frighteningly clear that three of Moore's public schools were directly in its path. With only a few minutes' warning, the teachers and staff rushed to protect the children.

Winds of up to 200 miles an hour decimated Plaza Towers and Briarwood elementary schools and severely damaged Highland East Junior High. Seven students perished. Amid the tragedy, the stories have emerged of quick-thinking school staffers who used instinct and emergency training and took action that saved even more young lives from being lost.

Sixth grade teacher Janice Brim ushered four Plaza Towers students into a closet, knowing that the safest shelter would be a small room with short walls. "I had them kneel down and cover their heads with their backpacks," she recalls. "I had to keep the door forced shut with my arm."

As the tornado hit the school, Brim and her students could hear screams from adjacent rooms, along with a roaring wind.

"I kept repeating, as loudly as I could, 'We're OK, we're OK,'" says Brim. "Over the roar, I could hear them singing a song I didn't recognize. I encouraged them to keep singing. They asked if they could pray, and I said, 'Of course!' Soon we saw light and knew that the roof was coming off."

The children huddled with Brim, and survived. Throughout Moore, teachers and school staff shielded children against harm in the face of horrible disaster.

I can't imagine a greater demonstration of service, courage and selflessness. Our founder, President George H. W. Bush, holds these values close. So today, in honor of President Bush's 89th birthday, I'm happy to announce that the staff of the Moore Public Schools are the recipients of our Daily Point of Light Award, a program he created during his administration that continues today, honoring often unsung heroes.

"We don't become heroes when something this terrible happens," says Brim, a 20-year teaching veteran. "We all become mommies. It's just natural. ... Students must be safe." To all the Daily Points of Light in Moore, who probably don't even realize they're heroes - thank you.