Heroism from tornado ravaged scout camp

June 12, 2008 10:06:35 PM PDT
In rural Iowa, it was a peaceful evening under the stars, when a tornado turned a Boy Scout campground into a killing ground. Four teenage scouts died Wednesday when the savage storm tore their compound apart. The young men were there to learn leadership skills. Many quickly found out how to be heroes.

A flag at Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Iowa flies at half staff, a poignant reminder that the lives of four young scouts, considered the "best and the brightest" in their districts, are lost.

Yesterday's storm gave the campers little warning.

Scout Zach Jessen described what happened. "The door blew open and they were like 'get under the tables, get under the tables.' Then all of a sudden the tornado hit and the building was completely gone. All that was left of that building was the foundation."

By the time the storm passed, two 13-year-olds and two 14-year-olds were dead, and dozens of others hurt, with injuries ranging from simple bumps to broken bones and head trauma.

"When it hit, it felt like I was getting shot at, but it was just rocks, dirt, grass, trees, everything," Jessen said.

Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Director, went to the scene.

"It looks to me like the tornado just came like a bowling bowl and knocked the buildings aside like pins."

Iowa Governor Chet Culver praised the efforts of first responders who cut their way through branches and debris, amid torrential rain and lightning to reach the isolated camp.

"They found a way to cut through dozens of trees to get 1 mile back into the woods. Meanwhile, 12, 13 and 14 year olds were triaging themselves."

This particular group of high-adventure campers is the embodiment of the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared."

Christianne Klein, ABC News, Little Sioux, Iowa.