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Gene Willers locked employees in bank vault and 'prepared to die'

Twin Tornados barreled down on Pilger, Nebraska, where a bank manager risked his life to save eight of his employees.
Twin Tornados barreled down on Pilger, Nebraska, where a bank manager risked his life to save eight of his employees.
kcentv /screen shot

The tornadoes that ripped through the small town of Pilger, Nebraska leaving it looking like a worn-torn country also left behind a hero, Gene Willers. This hero was ready to give up his own life to save the lives of eight of his employees and he didn't even think it over first.

The sirens were screaming and the day had turned into night from the storm clouds overhead filling everyone in the bank with fear. Willers, the bank branch president of the Nebraska Midwest Bank, hustled to get his employees to a safe place before the tornado reached the bank.

According to The Weather Channel on June 19, this was easy, as one of the safest places in town was the steel and concrete bank vault. The vault would fit everyone comfortably and it was a structure that could probably withstand a direct hit by a freight train, which was much like the weather barreling down on them.

The bank staff scrambled to close out their cash drawers as Willers ushered them all into the vault. Although Willers hurried them in to the vault, he was not going to be joining them in this safe place to ride out the EF4, which was due at their front door within minutes, reports US92 FM News out of Nebraska.

Willers knew that the only problem with the vault was that the door needed to be closed and locked tight to guard against this EF4 tornado from sucking open the door. Because the door cannot be locked from the inside of the vault, this meant that one person would have to stay behind to lock all the others in.

It was Willers who planned to lock his staff in for safety and get ready to die in this tornado. He knew he didn't stand a chance outside of the vault, but he also knew that no one would stand a chance in an unlocked storm shelter that the vault was about to become.

Willers locked his staff in and made scrambled to the cellar and then he got himself "prepared to die," he said. He was preparing for the worst and he had told his staff that he didn't plan on coming out alive of this twister about ready to hit.

In the dark cellar he braced himself and he said at first there was an eerie quiet, followed by mass destruction. The bank's wall was sheered off by the ferocious wind. It looked like a doll house with its open side.

Bricks clamored down around him and the street outside of the bank looked like devastation had hit, but Willers made it out alive and uninjured. He said his decision to save his employees lives over his was an "easy one."

"We're like a family and I'm the president and I take care of my family. That's all there is to it," said Willers. The bank manager will forever be a hero in his employees eyes and now the nation is hearing about this heroic deed from a man willing to risk his life for the people that worked for him.

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