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Mom in enduring image: 'God's arms around' 8-year-old daughter

AP
LaTisha Garcia carries her 8-year-old daughter, Jazmin Rodriguez, on Monday, May 20, near Plaza Towers Elementary School.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Thursday, May 23, 2013, 6:15 p.m.
 

MOORE, Okla. — The picture was published on hundreds of front pages around the world, becoming one of the lasting pictures from the tornado.

On Monday, as the vast storm was carving its way through town, there was no time to hesitate. LaTisha Garcia had to get to her children.

And so she raced against the storm. She had 30 miles to cover from her job in Edmond to Plaza Towers Elementary School, where her 8-year-old daughter Jazmin Rodriguez is a third grader.

She lost. The tornado got there first. She knew her three youngest children were safe at their daycare, but Jazmin was somewhere inside the rubble.

“Right when I ran up to ask if I could start pulling people out or try to help, some guy just handed her to me,” Garcia said. “I only recognized her from her clothes. My mind was in so many different places, I couldn't even remember what she wore that day.”

Finally, relief.

The emotion seared on her face, she scooped her daughter into her arms and set off across the now-barren landscape away from the place where seven of Jazmin's schoolmates had died.

“It was a long way toward the end of the parking lot,” Garcia recalled. “And she's a heavy girl. There were times I didn't think I was going to make it. But I did.”

Jazmin ended up with bumps and bruises, but no long-lasting injuries from the ordeal.

“I know she definitely had God's arms around her to walk out of there,” Garcia said.

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