BLENCOE, IOWA - Ethan Hession wasn't scared until the windows shattered.
Sirens had blared. Lights in the cabin had blinked out.
The scoutmaster had burst in and yelled, "Everybody under the tables!"
Within seconds, Ethan heard the sound of smashing glass and the deafening locomotive roar that means tornado. He felt glass rain down on his shoulders and back.
The 13-year-old crouched in a corner of a spare cabin at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch, elbows pressed against the concrete floor, hands covering his face. About 50 or so other members of the "Red Team" did the same.
Ethan tried to close his eyes.
Something struck his head.
He felt his body lifted up, as though he were flying. He looked up, through a blinding white mist, and saw the cabin's roof was gone.
"God help us!" yelled the boy next to Ethan.
Then it was over. As quickly as it had come.
The tornado that ripped through the Little Sioux Scout Ranch showed the boys and their leaders, who have spent their young lives learning about the outdoors, just how fierce Mother Nature can be.
Earlier in the week, before the tornado drilled the camp, the scouts drilled on what to do before, during and after a tornado.
So Wednesday night, when the clouds had parted and the chaos had passed, the Scouts took count of each other, just as they had practiced.
Forty-two people were hurt, most of them in the north cabin where Ethan cowered.
Four Scouts died: Aaron Eilerts, 14, of Eagle Grove, Iowa, and Josh Fennen, 13, Sam Thomsen, 13, and Ben Petrzilka, 14, all of Omaha, Neb.
Lying under a table in that building, Zach Jessen, a 14-year-old leader of one of the eight-member patrols, said he "prayed and prayed" that everyone would survive.
Minutes later, he stood amid the rubble and took count of his patrol. Everyone was accounted for -- except for one -- a shy 13-year-old from Omaha.
Scouts and scout leaders were performing CPR, but to no avail.
Severe weather was coming
Wednesday started like any other at the camp for budding Boy Scout leaders.
Several of the 13- to 18-year-olds -- many of them Eagle Scouts or on their way to becoming Eagle Scouts -- had spent their morning putting on presentations for the group.
Zach's presentation: How to spot, and resolve, impending problems.
The presentation was timely. The camp had been hit by rain. The Scouts, who slept in tents, were getting weary.
Some kids were soggy. Some were homesick.
Thomas White, who has been going to the camp for five years, said the weeklong gathering is known for torrential downpours.
"We just had to get the kids over the hump," said White, an 18-year-old camp staffer from Blair, Neb.
With word that severe weather was coming Wednesday night, White and other camp staffers decided to give the kids a break. Instead of making each group cook their own dinner, the staff cooked it -- "mounds and mounds" of spaghetti.
White had seen weather reports on his laptop that morning. The park caretaker also had called and given word.
"Everyone thought we would get a lot of rain," White said. "But, I mean, no one really knew what else was coming."
Caught in the thick of it
About 6 p.m., Zach could spot the impending problem in the southwestern sky.
He and several other scouts gathered on the porch of the administration building, watching the lightning show.
Zach was watching something else. A huge, dark, low-hanging cloud -- slowly starting to swirl.
Soon, the camp doctor's weather radio was blaring sounds of a tornado warning. The caretaker called with word that tornadoes had been spotted over the town of Little Sioux, about 15 miles to the south.
Suddenly, Rob Logsdon said, storm clouds shifted between two bluffs, near the entrance to the Scout camp.
"We could see a funnel cloud drop down, and it was heading right for us," the high school sophomore said.
Camp staffers sounded the alarm. Zach ushered several Red Team scouts to the north cabin -- about a quarter-mile from the camp's administrative building.
Scouts on the Green Team rushed to the south cabin, also a quarter mile away.
White took a homesick child to the south shelter, then ran out to see if anyone was lagging behind.
White and an adult rushed to help an overweight child who was struggling to get to the south shelter.
Rain picked up. Air pressure dropped. White's ears began to pop, he said, and it felt as though the air was being sucked out of his lungs.
"Get down," the adult yelled. With no ditch nearby, the three dropped into a shallow, foot-deep depression just to the side of a dirt road.
The tornado roared.
Branches crashed everywhere. A foot-thick branch fell from a huge oak and landed just beyond their feet.
White, a devout young man who also served as camp chaplain, started to pray. "I was like, 'God, come on! This cannot be the way I gotta go.'"
Within seconds, air pressure returned. The tornado had churned past.
Dazed, White got up and stared at the devastation. Scores of 40-foot trees were uprooted. Others were stripped of leaves. Logs lay everywhere.
But he and the two others were fine. "I thought if we didn't make it to shelter and we survived, it can't be that bad," White said.
'Just hold on. Just hold on'
In the north shelter, kids were scurrying for safety.
At the scoutmaster's command, Zach dove under a table. He saw a fellow Scout close to his table. He pulled him down -- only to find it was one of his best friends, Alex Norton from West Point, Neb.
Zach threw his arm around another scout under the table -- and braced himself.
The wind roared -- some said like a jet plane, others like a freight train. Zach said it felt as though he was lying on the tracks as a freight train rumbled over.
The cabin doors blasted open. "Just hold on. Just hold on," he told his buddies and himself. "It's almost over."
Doing as they were trained
When it was over, Ethan Hession struggled to his feet. He joined an effort to free Boy Scouts trapped under the pile of rubble in the center of the destroyed north cabin. He moved cinderblocks and bricks to free one boy.
A second boy had a gaping wound on his head. Ethan ripped off his T-shirt and handed it to another scout trying to staunch the blood.
Scouts barked commands.
Get the gauze!
I need a first-aid kit!
The trapped boys screamed for help, but Ethan and the others couldn't reach all of them.
He saw one boy lying motionless in the debris. Rescue crews ran in -- maybe 10 minutes after the tornado hit, Ethan said.
Zach emerged from under his table to survey the damage -- and to count his eight-Scout patrol. Seven answered.
"My heart sank," said Zach, of Hooper, Neb. "I didn't want to lose anyone. None of us did."