Injured Plaza Towers Teacher Takes First Steps


Friday, August 23rd 2013, 7:31 pm
By: Dana Hertneky


Friday marked a big milestone for a Plaza Towers teacher badly injured in the May 20 tornado. 

Karen Marinelli's tail bone was shattered as she used her body to protect her students. Those three little first grade boys were fine. Marinelli was not. It has been a painful and difficult recovery process.

As the huge Ef-5 tornado bore down on Moore, and headed toward Plaza Towers Elementary, Karen Marinelli desperately clutched her three first graders underneath her.

"My teacher laid on top of us and jumped on top of us and was saving us," said Liam Newby, one of the three boys.

The act of undeniable bravery would put Karen first in the hospital and since then a wheelchair. But this Fall, Mrs. Marinelli was back in the classroom. By all accounts she's been a trooper, but admits it's all starting to wear on her.

"I just can't do normal things, like walk across and grab something," she said.

But Friday was a big day. This is the first time since the walls of the school came down on top of her, Karen tried to stand on her own.

"I was scared," she said. "I was scared they would say I wasn't healed completely and they would say you need some more time."

Karen's doctors say surgery and time have been successful in healing the uncommon injury. On Friday she also took her first steps.

Three months and three days after a stranger pulled her from the rubble of her beloved elementary school Mrs. Marinelli walked out of her doctor's office with the help of a walker… but not for long.

"Now they can see progress. Now they know they can overcome this devastating event and this unique injury and she smiles now, so it's good," said her surgeon William Ertl, MD.

"I can do what I used to do, I'm ready for that, ready to really be the mommy and wife I used to be," said Marinelli.

Karen will need more physical therapy, but her doctor says she will make a full recovery.

A group of parents are raising money to send Marinelli on vacation. Learn more about how you can donate.

A fund has also been set up to help her:

Dominic Marinelli for the benefit of Karen Marinelli.

Main: 1-877-602-2262

Central Oklahoma: 405-495-2489

Stillwater: 405-742-6290

You can also donate online