March 2, 2012 is a date that Stephanie Decker will never forget. The now 42-year-old mother from Henryville, Indiana, remembers it every single day when she looks down and sees her two prosthetic limbs. On that fateful day, she lost her legs. But what she did to lose them, she hasn’t regretted for a moment.
On that day, Stephanie had just gotten home with her two children, Dominic and Reese, when an enormous storm appeared on the horizon. Lucky they were inside, she thought to herself. But then it got worse: an F4 tornado was ripping through town about to be met by another F2.
Stephanie could see that it was serious enough for them to seek shelter in the basement.
“I looked up and I saw our trampoline that was staked in the ground go flying across the yard,” she recalled. Now she started to panic.
It kept getting worse. “Then the entire house started to shake. I became petrified at that point and one of the windows busted in,” she explained. Instinctively she wrapped the kids in a blanket and covered them with her body, holding them tightly.
Then she watched as the house was literally lifted off its foundation.
The storm’s 175-mile-an-hour winds blew right through their property, destroying everything in its path. As if in slow motion, she watched an enormous steel beam begin to collapse towards them.
All she knew was that she had to protect her children: “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.'”
When the six-yard-long mass of metal fell on her, it crushed her legs completely.
Then came the second tornado, hurling debris from the first across the landscape. They were even more exposed now. Stephanie threw her upper body over her daughter as a pillar flew toward the little girl. It broke eight of her ribs and penetrated her lungs, but her daughter was safe.
Once the storm abated she sent the children to seek help. Stephanie was incredibly badly injured and it would be a long road back to full health.
But amazingly, she was alive and that was what counted.
With a long stay in the hospital and then the help of two ultra-modern prosthetic legs, she was soon on her way to a real recovery.
A year after the tornado she created the Stephanie Decker Foundation to help injured children and their families with the cost of medical treatment and recovery from trauma. At the same time she started traveling throughout the country giving motivational speeches. She can now move freely with her prostheses and says if she had to go through the nightmare in that basement all over again, she would make exactly the same decisions.
The family decided not to rebuild their house. Instead they moved 15 minutes away to a nearby town. Stephanie meanwhile has shown her children and herself how to marshall courage and rebuild life into something even more meaningful than before.
It’s no wonder Stephanie is good at motivating people: she’s a real hero and inspiration.
When it comes to protecting their children, parents have extraordinary wells of strength and fortitude to call on in emergencies. But when they have to pay such a high price for it, Stephanie’s experience will be a shining model of how to recover and share the wisdom she’s gained!