WINDSOR, Colo. (CBS4) – Angi Ruiz can still recall the moment the ground began to shake.
“I could feel everything hitting the back of the wall in the bathroom,” she said.
As an EF3 tornado roared into Windsor on May 22, 2008, Ruiz and 20 other teachers helped more than 130 preschoolers take cover. She rushed a group of toddlers into a small bathroom.
“It was pretty packed in here,” Ruiz told CBS4 as she opened the bathroom door. “We had one teacher by the door with her foot pushed against the door trying to hold it shut because it was shaking.”
Ruiz remembers hearing windows shatter and debris coming into the school. She worried for her five-year-old daughter in the other room.
“It was scary, very scary,” Ruiz said.
Once the tornado passed, there was a strong gas odor in the building. That’s when everyone evacuated to the parking lot and eventually a nearby bank.
“That was the first time I saw my daughter,” Ruiz said as she held back tears. “I get emotional about this still. She was fine. She was good. I got to hug her and tell her I love her, but then I had to turn around and hand her off to somebody else because I had those toddlers I had to take care of.”
No one was hurt at the Windmill Child Enrichement Center that disastrous day, but nearly everything around it was destroyed.
“God was here,” Ruiz said. “We had angels around us, and they protected us.”
A decade later, Ruiz is now the Assistant Director of the Windmill. She said it is her happy place, but there are frightening memories there.
“You walk into the building, like when we first came back, and it brought memories back,” she said, adding some parents didn’t bring their students back to the school when it reopened because of fear.
One memory Ruiz will always hold onto is how people in Windsor responded to Mother Nature’s wrath.
“Just the way the community came together and helped anybody and everybody was amazing,” she said.
Since the 2008 tornado, Ruiz explained the school has implemented regular tornado drills into their schedule. They also have a radio permanently tuned to weather alerts.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.