Lauren Swann Recalls the Night John Servati Saved Her Life by Giving Up His
10/03/2014 AT 04:45 PM EDT
The University of Alabama swimmer was killed by a tornado in April after holding up a concrete wall long enough for his girlfriend to get out from under it.
Once the storm began in earnest on that fateful Monday night, the couple took refuge in Swann's basement, only to have the walls collapse on top of them, she told The Clarion-Ledger.
She recalled her hesitation about going down into the basement, despite knowing rationally the protection it would offer: "I don't know why, but I was like 'No. No. No,' " Swann said.
"I was procrastinating like no other," she added. "I just didn't want to go. And I didn't know why."
Turned out, her instincts were right. After the walls gave way in a mini-mudslide, Swann found her head pinned by the concrete.
"It got to the point where I stopped breathing," she remembered. "That's when he looked at me and he said, 'I'm going to make sure you're OK whether I am OK or not.' "
Her only answer was to gasp for air, she said.
"I was like 'Oh, my gosh. I'm about to die,' " Swann said. "I honestly thought I was going to die."
But by some miracle, Servati managed to push the concrete off Swann and move her out of the way. Then the wall collapsed on him.
She couldn't explain it: "I guess adrenaline rush and the fact that God wanted me alive – I don't know."
Swann called 911, but no one came for almost an hour. An hour that Swann spent watching her boyfriend get slowly crushed to death.
When firefighters finally did arrive, it took more than six of them to lift the concrete that Servati had moved singlehandedly. He was rushed to the hospital, but he didn't make it. Swann didn't see him again until the funeral.
Five months later, life without Servati can still be hard. "I've literally had to sit there and tell myself, 'Lauren, there's a reason this happened. There's a plan for you. It's OK. It's going to be OK.' "
"Why be mad?" she adds. "As hard as it is to think about, this really is all part of God's grand plan. He has a purpose for my life just like he had a purpose for John's."