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"I wasn't panicked until I saw the building," said Russell Grant, who showed up to take home his 5-year-old son, Justin, after hearing what had happened.
The damage was so severe some witnesses were in disbelief that everyone inside could have walked out. Two people crawled under the beams and wreckage looking for kids, but everyone already was out.
"She may have saved many of these children's lives," the mayor said.
The manager of the day-care center operating inside the building had made everyone get into the section of the building that survived the high winds.
"What I saw was just utter destruction," Slaughter said. "The children were scared, they were cold and dirty. They were crying and upset, but really they were calmer than I thought they would be."
Jon Slaughter, who owns two nearby businesses, arrived at the skate center with two employees about five minutes after the building was ripped apart.
Authorities were unsure whether it was a tornado that hit the skate center about 10:15 a.m.
Several states were battered by the storms, which unleashed tornadoes and straight-line winds that overturned mobile homes and tractor-trailers, uprooted trees and knocked down power lines. At least one person was killed and several injured. (Watch witnesses describe the storms' fury -- 2:15 Video)
"I'm amazed that anyone got out of there," said Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright.
One child suffered a broken bone and another a cut to the head. But everyone else emerged unharmed from the crumpled wreck of the Fun Zone Skate Center in Montgomery, Alabama. The facility doubled as a day-care facility.
MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) -- Lines of powerful thunderstorms pelted the South with heavy wind, rain and hail Wednesday, turning a skating rink into a hulk of twisted metal soon after the 31 preschoolers and four adults inside had fled to the only part of the building that turned out to be safe.
Storm destroys skating rink full of preschoolers
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