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.

[cnn-video 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.

soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. Rock With You Horsegirl

    We ought to pray for all of those people who lost homes and loved ones there.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Steve D

    I feel for these people,, however all this devistation not only here but everywhere tell's me god is not someone I'm going to look to for Help,, I need a Breeze Get a tornado.. yep Love him..

    May 24, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. GDmit

    if God was so great, they why does he let these things happen? I mean seriously, when are we all going to grow up and stop chasing these fairy tales?

    also, which god is responsible for this- jesus, allah, budda, santa... get my point?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Perhaps instead of yammering on stupidly on the internet, you should actually try and find the answer to your own question. I want you to read the bible from beginning to end. Slowly, think about what you are reading. If you have any questions then chat up a local preacher. Only then will you truly know why God "allows" these things to happen.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • U.R. An Idiot

      You do indeed have a point. Wear a hat and perhaps it won't show.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
    • gabe

      davidloc, the God of the Bible whom you call a horrible creature did something for you that you will have never done in a thousands lifetimes, He DIED VOLUNTARILY to pay for your sinful and corrupt and shameful life, and so He did for me, by dying in our place, we have a chance to spent eternity with God, and for our sins to be forgiven.
      Jesus loves you, but if you reject His love then you will certainly have a taste of His wrath once you are judge for your sins.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Dogwelder

      People satan killed in the bible: 10
      People god has killed in the bible: Millions

      Your gods sacrifice means nothing because he 'resurrected' himself 3 days later. Yeah, he had to knock up some lady so he could give birth to himself so he could kill himself to 'die' for our sins. Your fairy tale is horribly childish.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Chilly Water

      Jesus died voluntarily? Big deal. Any decent parent would instantly switch places with their child if it meant that you died and they didn't.

      Somewhat of a tangent, but studies have shown that men are more likely to give their life for total strangers in an emergency situation. In the article I read, there was a specific anecdote of a plane crash in water where one guy kept letting go of the wing, swimming out to get another person, repeatedly, until he died.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. brown

    "Everybody got scared. We thought the best way to go (was to) go to the back and hide."

    Mother Nature possesses power beyond Human comprehension. People can attempt to 'hide' from it 🙂

    May 24, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lil bit

    I feel 4 everyone'S lost. U got 2 hve faith. Read revelations it speaks about wats happenin these last days. Wars, diseases, seasons mxed up, and more. I luv u, my brother.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • MissWendy68

      We just finished revelations in our adult Sunday school class. No one will have any idea when the end will happen. Hitler could have been pinned as the Anti-Christ. The natural disasters that happened when my mother was a child cold have been placed on the end of the world too. Don't panic, it hasn't started yet.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cricket

    If the right-wing thugs in Washington would not spend so many billions of our tax dollars in those two atrocious wars in the Middle East, the victims of this unGodly weather would be better served. Let's end the pampering of Sarah Palin and the rest of the Tea Party movement. We need to set our priorities straight. It's as simple as that!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • U.R. An Idiot

      So you managed to politicize the weather. Congratulations.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. amy

    I fell so bad for all the people who have been through these storms. After seeing the pictures of what is left of Joplin, it makes the tornado that hit here in Minneapolis look like a wind storm. I can't imagine... Looks like its going to be a rough storm season this year.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Miserable Souls

    How miserable must you be in life to take an event like a natural disaster where folks have lost everything dear to them and make political or religious statements. Being heartless is not accepted behavior for Atheists, Christians, or Americans for that matter. I feel for those folks tormented by their faith and I equally feel for those folks tormented by those with faith that cause them such pain.

    Believe what you will, but ....these people were sucked out of windows and cars and you want to make a point about the stupidity of religion...amazing. On the other foot you have folks stating God's will...put it to rest and be a human being for 5 minutes in your life.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • charlie

      could not have said it better myself. please people, look outside of yourselves for one minute and try to imagine the things you read in the above article happening to you or those you love. NO! don't let that image slip away and be nullified my the heartless prattling of the ego, who cannot even fathom not being the center of all that exists. REALLY IMAGINE IT. pain my friends, thats what these people are dealing with. not stress. not agitation. pain and sorrow unleashed amidst them to claim them and their loved ones at will. what WOULD you do? you would reach out to anything that would give you some small comfort, some way of dealing with the horror you just lived through and will continue to live with for the rest of your life.

      in short: you would act just like anybody else.
      just as they did.

      have a nice life.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Twd

    What were these people doing when the tornado passed through, as chaos and debris exploded or was whipped around them? They prayed! And despite all of the destruction, their lives were not lost. If that is not evidence of the hand of God i don't know what is! Praying for all who were impacted!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Something

      You seem to be implying that the 124 dead people weren't praying... or were praying wrong.

      Prayer makes *you* feel good... and powerful - that's all.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tori

    It's amazing how folks who don't care to turn to God for anything else will immediately turn around and point the finger at God when stuff hits the fan and we get a glimpse of how not in control we are. John Clayton is a man that was a second generation atheist, an active member and officer in the American Atheist Society and a very science based thinker. Trying to debunk the bible, he studied other religions as well as Christianity and after several years, finally came to the conclusion that it is impossible to, with intellectual honesty, believe that there is no God after looking at science and all the evidences. He was a high school science teacher of 40 years and has a website and programs that help present the evidences and arguments for the existence of God to those that have questions or are skeptical. His website is http://www.doesgodexist.org and for those of you that ask questions like, "Why did God let this happen?" "How could God have let this happen?" "Who created God?", he has some great scientific arguments that might help answer those questions more completely.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
    • me

      preach elsewhere vulture, there are lost and grieving here. have some respect and can the sunday school lesson for a bit, eh?
      ...and yes i have read the bible, 5 different versions. among many, many other things as well.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  11. popeye

    RELIGION IS A MYTH CREATED BY MAN. NO DIFFERENT THAN SANTA CLAUS OR THE TOOTH FAIRY. "FAITH IN GOD" IS FOR WEAK MINDED PEOPLE THAT ARE TOO LAZY TO PICK UP A BOOK AND LEARN ABOUT THE PLANET ON WHICH WE LIVE.
    ****PLEASE DONATE TO RED CROSS****

    May 25, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
    • God&Science

      "However, if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we should know the mind of God."
      -Stephen Hawking-

      Just another weak minded person I guess.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. djinn

    Tori, how does any of that crap have to do with tornados in Joplin?

    May 25, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mark N

    From my hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand to my other hometown of Joplin, MO. Our thoughts are with you and we have some idea what you are going through, having just been through several large earthquakes. I think of the people who have lost their loved ones and their houses. Wishing there was more I can do to help.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Katherine

    Give it a rest, people. Natural disasters have NOTHING to do with any deities you may worship. Your logic is so backwards. Some of you are saying that god both caused the tornado and saved people from it. What an incoherent idea. Just focus on what is here in front of you and try to help out these poor people if you can spare a dime or a week of work to help them rebuild.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  15. nick

    this whole thing makes me sad 124ppl died and how many of those were saved we will never know and to all those who blame God or put forth the non existence of God, its sad scripture says for those who dont belive are foolish how can u possibly not look at these tornadoes how can somethin so massive and destructive and i know kinda wrong to think but admirable to look at b created by nothing. God is a merciful, powerful & almighty God. som.e peole belive because of these storms and floods we r n the end times when i believe God is tryin 2 get americas attention. look at what aour country has come too when we first became a country we had God at the forefront and what a country we were powerful, robust proud and economically well. now we have put him on thback burner ad forgottoen him now he wants our attentiona nd sometimes it takes his massibely destructive but beautiful storms to do so its sayin hey america im still here but just like sodom & gomorra if we keep turnin from him he migh just turn his back on us and either lets us destroy ourselves or he might do it

    May 25, 2011 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
    • davidloc

      .Using god as an explaination for anything is when you stop examining the evidence and when you die a little as a human being. The god portrayed in the bible is a horrible , murderous animal , there is nothing loving about this creature that you have decided should be believed in and waste your time in. The old christian question of what if I am wrong can only be answered by you are wrong and you deserve better for yourself and your family.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'when we first became a country we had God at the forefront and what a country we were powerful, robust proud and economically '
      Oh you mean during the time of slavery and 'manifest destiny' being used to drive native americans from their lands? that time of having god in the forefront and him blessing the country?
      Well i can certainly see how you think it would be worse now so god would send us a message rather than before.

      May 25, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Patti

      I agree Nick. I will pray for you davidloc!

      May 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
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