Michael Williams was driving home from work in Shreveport, La., when suddenly the weather changed. A series of tornadoes was ripping through the state of Louisiana on Oct. 29, 2009, and one of them had Williams' name on it.
In an interview with "20/20," Williams recalled being stopped at a red light and watching debris fly through the air as the traffic lights swung from vertical to horizontal. Then everything went black.
Watch the full story on "20/20: SAVED!" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET
"When I opened my eyes, I could see that my car was just completely exploded and destroyed, all around me, that I was pinned in my car into a little ball," said Williams.
He had no idea the twister had lifted a 12-ton steeple off the First United Methodist Church in downtown Shreveport and slammed it onto his car, burying him inside a tangled mess of metal.
"I thought perhaps I had been in an automobile accident," Williams said. "You don't normally assess immediately that [a 12-ton] steeple has fallen on your head."
"I've seen bad wrecks, but nothing like this," said firefighter Jim Bob Pope, one of the first responders on the scene.
Williams had head trauma and deep leg-tissue trauma; a broken back, sternum and foot; a shattered wrist; and a partly severed finger. With his head down and his body slumped over, firefighters thought Williams was dead.
"They called in their official call, and they said, 'We're here, and the victim is deceased.' … They came over with a blanket to cover me up," said Williams. "And before they were able to do that, because I could hear them, I lifted my head up and asked them to please get me out."
Fifty-five minutes later, Williams was placed in an ambulance and rushed to the hospital, where he was treated and stabilized. Not knowing if he would ever walk or use his right hand again, Williams began the long road of recovery.
Three and a half years later, Williams is back on his feet. With the help of his wife, Judy, he has made a full recovery, although he suffers from back pain. He has learned to take things more slowly. Together, he and his wife have learned to appreciate life and each other more.
"Live in the now, live in the moment," Judy Williams said. "Be grateful for what you have. … Never miss the chance to tell people you love them."