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Temple softball home safe after St. Louis tornado

Sunday, April 24, 2011 | 5:51 p.m. CDT; updated 10:56 a.m. CDT, Monday, April 25, 2011

Temple's softball players were pressed up against the terminal windows at the St. Louis airport Friday night, gaping at the pitch-black sky and the kind of weather they never see in the Northeast.

Then a security guard started screaming that everybody needed to evacuate.

Players hurdled chairs as they were ushered downstairs to a baggage area, where the team huddled together for more than an hour, protected from the tornado that ravaged the city.

By Sunday morning — in time for Easter — the Owls were safe at home in Philadelphia, relieved and exhausted, after about 15 hours on an overnight bus trip.

"Thank goodness that glass didn't break," coach Joe DiPietro said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Temple had been on the road for a pair of conference games against Saint Louis University on Thursday and Friday. After winning both, the team headed to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for a flight back to Philadelphia.

The gate agent was keeping everybody informed about the severe storms in the area, and for a while it just seemed like a fascinating lesson in Midwest weather. Their plane landed from its previous flight, and the agent said they'd probably board in about 20 minutes.

No passengers ever got on that plane, which was ripped from the jet bridge and turned to the side by winds estimated at more than 100 mph.

The 23 members of Temple's group were in a different terminal from the one where the tornado tore off part of the roof and blew out half of the large, plate-glass windows. Nobody from the team was injured. Their luggage, though, was soaking wet.

On a shuttle to a nearby hotel later Friday night, the Owls saw a flagpole that had been bent sideways and the damage to the main terminal.

"It looked like a bomb had hit it," DiPietro said.

On Saturday morning, DiPietro had a decision to make. It was unclear whether they could get a flight back that day. He contacted Temple's usual bus company, which connected him to the service used by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The bus left around 5 p.m. local time Saturday. At about 2:15 a.m., the group reached Cambridge, Ohio, east of Columbus, where they met their normal driver and switched buses.

It was the right decision. If the Owls had waited for a flight, they probably would've been stranded in St. Louis until Tuesday with no clothes and no meal money.

Tuesday is when they're scheduled to play again — against cross-town rival Saint Joseph's, which was also in St. Louis to play the Billikens and had to bus back.

That is, if the game isn't rained out.


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