Joplin tornado survivor glad he heeded the sirens for once
Debris is strewn across Joplin, Missouri, on Tuesday, two days after a tornado there killed at least 124 people.
May 24th, 2011
10:49 PM ET

Joplin tornado survivor glad he heeded the sirens for once

A tornado on Sunday killed at least 125 people in Joplin, Missouri, authorities said Tuesday. Here are stories of some of those who survived the storm:

Rick Morgan: I usually ignore the sirens

Rick Morgan says he came close to doing Sunday what he normally does when he hears tornado sirens in Joplin: ignore them. Had he done so this time, he says, he probably would have died.

He was in a store, intending to buy some milk, when the sirens started Sunday.

"The store manager says, 'Everyone who is in the store, you need to go back to the produce cooler, because the sirens are going off,'" Morgan recalled Tuesday for CNN. "Well instead, following my M.O., instead of going to the produce cooler, I think, 'Well, I'll just drive home.' "

As Morgan approached the door, the store owner protested. And then four people on the outside "ran screaming into the store," Morgan said.

"Already at this point, I guess the wind was so high, and the debris was probably cutting them to pieces," Morgan said. "When I saw what was out there, it’s like, 'Well, this is the real thing.' "

Morgan and everyone else in the store did what many others were doing in other Joplin stores and restaurants: They took shelter in a walk-in refrigerator. The store started getting heavily damaged about a minute later, but the 35 or so people in the cooler were OK.

"I don't remember the sound. ... What I remember is, like, Armageddon. I mean, it’s like everything you think is real and solid is suddenly … blowing up,"  Morgan said. "As we stood, the door was opened on the produce cooler, and (we were) looking into the rest of the store, and it just exploded. Everything (was) flying everywhere. I don’t have words to describe it. "

Kasey Grant, new high school graduate, ran for shelter

Kasey Grant was a high school graduate for about an hour when the tornado approached her town.

She had just given a speech at the commencement ceremony for her class of about 450 Joplin High School seniors. After the event at a local university ended, as she and her mother were preparing to leave, the tornado sirens started.

"We had no idea where the tornado was, so we were going to try to make it home (in our car)," Grant said. "But on the way home, we got a phone call from my aunt, and she told us she could see on the news (that) the tornado was on 7th Street, which was extremely close to where we were.

"So she told us to get out of the car immediately, so we pulled into the mall, got out of the car and went into the storm shelter in there and just waited out for probably about 30 to 40 minutes."

Those in the shelter were fine. When they left, they saw much of Joplin destroyed, including the high school.

"I broke down in the car (when) we drove past the high school. The entire top floor of the high school is just gone," Grant said. "You can't even tell where you are when you're over in that part of town."

IHOP manager ushered customers, employees to safety

Thirty customers - including two members of the General Assembly - and six workers were inside an IHOP restaurant in Joplin when the tornado sirens started. The manager, Danny Khatib, wasn't worried at first, but the rain, hail and wind got worse.

"You could hear the noises before the windows (broke) and stuff," Khatib told CNN. "Everybody got scared. We thought the best way to go (was to) go to the back and hide."

Khatib crammed as many people as he could into the walk-in freezer (15 people) and the walk-in refrigerator (another 15 people). The remaining six huddled outside those areas, and all 36 stayed where they were for about five minutes.

When the noise stopped, everyone got out and saw most of the restaurant was wrecked, though some plates of food remained on some tables. All 36 people survived.

"Thank God. Lucky no one got hurt," said Khatib, whose Joplin-area house was destroyed in the storm.

Khatib said the restaurant will "come back better than before."

Priest found unhurt in rubble of rectory

The Rev. Justin Monaghan, pastor of Joplin's St. Mary Catholic Church, was in his rectory when the storm hit. He took shelter in a bathtub, face down, and tried to cover his head.

"I heard this noise, and I thought, 'Oh, what is happening,?' I lay there; I (was) just praying and said, 'Thy will be done.'"

"I said, 'You know, God, if this was meant to be, how much I love you.'"

When the noise stopped, Monaghan, 70, was OK. But when he tried to open the bathroom door, "everything was blocking it," he said.

Much of the rest of the rectory was rubble. He waited there for an hour before he heard church members looking for him.

"I hollered at the top of my voice, because there was water dripping and making noise. I said, 'Where are you?' And I pulled some kind of board … off and put it in the air'" to attract attention, he said.

Couple find dog alive after wind 'blew it out the front window'

Pierre Jason and his wife, Penny Jason, sought shelter in a bathroom of their Joplin home when they heard the tornado sirens Sunday. Their cat and their dog, however, refused to follow them inside.

"Next thing I heard was the breaking of glass, and the back wall of our house just collapsed, and the wind picked up our dog and blew it out the front window," Pierre Jason told CNN's "In the Arena" on Tuesday.

The couple huddled in the bathroom, and "the house just tumbled and came down on us," he said.

"We just held tight to each other, just prayed, hoping that it would pass by," he said. "The next thing I knew, we were covered in rubble. The washing machine and dryer were laying on the side, on my leg."

The house was destroyed, but the couple were OK. They don't know where their cat is, but they found their dog alive and "just fine" amid the home's rubble on Monday, Pierre Jason said.

soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. HeIsGod

    Comment from an atheist:

    dblaa
    I think I can help you with this. As an Atheist, it just gets VERY frustrating having god shoved down my throat CONSTANTLY. It's on our money, it's in our pledges, it is just EVERYWHERE. Churches are even tax exempt. I try hard not to get too aggravated or critical of others beliefs, but it is just so pervasive. I am always being proselytized and pressured to "find god"... almost everyone has zero respect for my desire to live as secular a life as possible. People are SO adamant and emotional about what they believe that it always turns into a hateful shouting match. I wish we could all just be more tolerant, but it rarely works out that way.

    My response
    First of all, this comment is beyond ignorant and people such as dblaa only demonstrate their level of maturity, which is very low. How can anyone shove anything down one’s throat when they remain who they are? I have NEVER seen an unbeliever been reborn of the spirit because some one or others have shoved God down their throats. It’s not frustration that these people are feeling, I call it like it is….angry, bitter, and voided within, nothing else. How can any of you “THINK” that you are enlightened when you constantly attack others for what they believe? Now as far as complaining that God is EVERYWHERE, like in our money, pledges, and church, what are you going to do about it? If you are that frustrated, why don’t you BUILT your OWN COUNTRY?? We are pretty sure you would be in such a happier place, yeah right!! You people get aggravated with our belief for the simple fact that you are NOT tolerant with us, but yet, you expect us to be tolerant with you? This has nothing to do with one not having any respect for your secular life, it’s about agreeing to disagree, but yet, you fail to realize it and instead rather argue with us for our belief. You have not respect for us, why should you demand our respect for you? Even the unbelievers are SO adamant and emotional about what they believe and are the most arguemental people who are constantly stirring others for their faith in Christ. Their debate never fails to also turn into a hateful shouting match. If you want us to be tolerant, you MUST do the same. I have no problem with unbelievers until I see their hateful, evil minded and bitter comments towards us. Who cares if you don’t believe in God? After all, when we die, we will see who was wrong and who is right. If you unbelievers are right about what you have been saying to us, guess what, we lose absolutely NOTHING, but if you are wrong and we are right, you absolutely lose EVERYTHING, which is your soul, being precious to God

    May 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • fry

      for one this country was founded on GOD and Religion. If you don't like God Everywhere, then GET OUT OF THE USA...mkay, otherwise shut up and put up. I don't agree with the HIPOCRITS that argue with you and get angry. Alot of my family is like that and If you don't want to hear about God, I will respect that and shut up about it as should all Christians do. I am Christian but I don't believe more than half of the Bible coz most of the books in the Bible were written 200-700 years BC and AD. Those Authors weren't there when Christ was alive. Scientist have also proved what happened with the locust, fire raining down etc.... I had an afterlife experience 12 years ago(i was dead for 7 minutes)and was in Heaven with my aunt who died minutes before me and it felt like an eternity. There is 1 other person who described the exact same experience I had and she was a 12 yo girl who drowned and she saw the same things I did. I don't think God has anything to do with natural disasters. It's the earth making adjustments and repairing itself and I'm sure global warming has alot to do with it. I apologise for all the idiotic Christians out there that don't understand, yes teach the word of God but don't cram it down peoples throats.

      May 27, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. Andy

    Oh, no, poor kitty :(

    May 25, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lizzy

    That's pitiful. Just because your dog or cat won't fallow you. What if it was your child not following you? Huh? I always force my dogs into the reinforced shower we have. I don't care if they don't like it at the moment, but I'm sure they're much happier alive. Poor kitty.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • amy

      EXACTLY! Idiots....you MAKE your pets go in there! I don't care if he is scratching and barking! They sound like ....oh well and like oh hey he lived, how about that! Lucky us. Dog was actually trying to find new owners! Dude, these guys are dumb....you guys need a dog? I am a good watch dog...I don't bark or beg...and I fly!

      May 26, 2011 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Shonda Jason

      It happened at an instant and he protected his wife. The cat ran off and his wife did not want to lose another husband and didn't want him to leave her side. So until you can walk in some else's shoes...shut the hell up!!!! .....all of you!

      May 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Perm Clark

      I can't even believe i'm readin dis.....my parents went thru hell and ya'll gon sit around and talk down. Juss shows whose really a bunch of "Idiots".

      May 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      Clearly, you've never been in a tornado. When these things hit they hit fast and hard. There isn't time to argue with a stubborn pet about getting into the bathroom or not. If it comes down to it, you get whee you need to be to be safe. Animals have a way of taking care of themselves in these kinds of situations – and if not, at least the husband and wife were safe.

      If anyone is an idiot, it's you for speaking without thinking first.

      May 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patti

      Don't give them a hard time. That's just mean! I'm sure they feel bad enough already without you blasting them about it, not to mention the fact that they lost everything they had. The cat is probably fine. Remember, cats always land on their feet.

      May 26, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • aware

      I would have done the same thing,in that situation you have to decide who's life is more important,the pets or yours,considering I have 5 children to live for,I'd say mine.

      May 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • g. dobbins

      Lizzy, your remarks are not needed. Have you seen Joplin? Have you seen the people trying to find their love ones? Do you have a heart? Do you know how it feels to look for someone swept away by a tornado? What about trying to get the officals to let you in the morgue to find your love ones? Why don't you look at that computer screen and wonder how it feels to have everything I mean EVERYTHING

      May 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • g. dobbins

      Lizzy, your remarks are not needed. Have you seen Joplin? Have you seen the people trying to find their love ones? Do you have a heart? Do you know how it feels to look for someone swept away by a tornado? What about trying to get the officals to let you in the morgue to find your love ones? Why don't you look at that computer screen and wonder how it feels to have everything...I mean EVERYTHING...including your family GONE! May God bless everyone suffering in Joplin. And Thank God that dog was found alive. Lizzy your an idiot!

      May 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. believer

    Natural disasters have everything to do with God! The world is going to Hell in a handbasket and He has to do something to get you IDIOTS to pay attention. And if you don't believe in God and know Him as your personal savior, know this, I PRAY FOR YOU DAILY!!! May you find truth in God! People that have been hit by the tornado's, I wish I could help more but all I have is my Faith in God! Praying constantly!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Thanks for nothing.

      May 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. maclean

    I can't believe I read these crappy,hypocritical comments from both believers and non-believers. Believers,do what Jesus said to do,turn the other cheek, non-believers, ignore the believers like you normally do. Just shutup all of you and send aide, and whatever support you can to the victims in Joplin or wherever else you want, just help!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. casey

    I know those people are glad they found their dog, but that owner shouldn't put a shock-collar on her. Pronanly shocked her the entire time. Jerk.

    May 26, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. casey

    I know those people are glad they found their dog, but that owner shouldn't put a shock-collar on her. Probably shocked her the entire time. Jerk.

    May 26, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. God

    is not mocked! At the end of the day be quick to listen and slow to judge for these are the fruits of the spirit! One day we will all have our Joplin day it may not be that storm/ tornado but we will have our day! So now is the time to pray and sow good seed because your need is in your seed. God BLESS OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN JOPLIN AND EVERYONE IN AND AROUND THE WORLD. I LOVE YOU ALL!

    May 26, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tomato

    TAKE HEED! IT'S TOMATO SEASON! OTHERWISE YOU END UP DEAD OR MISSING

    May 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. obbop

    Writing from east of Joplin, MO.

    Obama, stay away.

    Get your beloved photo-op elsewhere.

    The tie-ups your presence will cause will only hinder/hamper recovery efforts.

    How about diverting the funds that would be spent in your personal publicity seeking be used to buy some food for the huge number of working-poor citizens hereabouts?

    The only one to gain from your visit is you, Obama.

    May 26, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. believer

    Natural Disasters ARE God! If you believe He is in control of EVERYTHING, which a Christian should, how is He no part of Natural disasters? Does He control everything but them?

    May 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Thabiso

    I can't imagine how ftrrieying these tornadoes must have been. I was wondering, do tornadoes only happen during the day, or can they strike in the night as well? I think I'd rather be here in Christchurch, New Zealand, with our big earthquakes, than somewhere with those tornadoes! Hope I don't jinx things here Take careCarol

    March 15, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Survivor

    It was creepy that this happened the day the world was supposed to end, and for most of us it felt like it did. As for Danny Khatib, he was most certainly NOT at IHOP during the storm, he didn't show up until over 3 hours after because of the heavy traffic on Rangeline. Denise Riker was the manager on duty, and was attempting to cook for the beginning of a very busy dinner rush. Thanks to the efforts of a teenage boy who alerted statesman White and the further effort on the part of statesman White, she was alerted to the danger and it was a group effort of the manager, employees and customers that got most people to safely into the back (not all). There were not 6 employees, there were 7 servers, 2 cooks, 2 hostesses, and 2 dishwashers as we expected to be extremely busy after graduation. Also with parties of 9-20 and a random assortment of couples and families I am sure there were more than 30 customers. It made a LOT of us extremely angry to see this man take credit for saving lives when he wasn't even in the state and didn't even know how many employees were at work. It offends me to no end to see Danny Khatib still in a management position with this company after everything the REAL heroes and survivors actually went through.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
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