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.Ā 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, itās 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, itās like everything you think is real and solid is suddenly ā¦ blowing up," Ā 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 donāt 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,?'Ā 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 ā¦ off and put it in the air'" to attract attention, he said.[cnn-videoĀ url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/05/24/exp.tsr.jeras.joplin.church.saved.cnn"%5D
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.