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.

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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. dave&julia

    It is the devil that want us to blame GOD for all that goes wrong !!This is where faith comes in !Just look at what Jesus went threw and how his faith provailed .belive what u want .it is hard alot of time top keep the faith !but we all fall short

    May 25, 2011 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Loreeeeeeee

      God gave you the devil.

      May 25, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • That's What's Up

      If there really is/was a god, he is doing a freakin' horrible job all the way around. Why create 4 billion people only to "keep" a few hundred million in some cloud and kill all the rest. I mean, even if there is a "heaven" freakin' boring does it sound? what the hell would you actually do in heaven? wear white clothes everyday? see dead family members? no need to catch up with them because they have seen everything, being that they're "all around us". heaven sounds boring, god sounds mean; hell sounds too harsh and purgatory sounds stale. No wonder the 72 virgins thing is so enticing. Now THAT sounds like a party!

      May 25, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. JehseaLynn

    My faith in the social compact, the fabric of society and the compassion of one man for another is restored in the wake of such natural disasters as the horrific Joplin tornado – or man-made hell, like September 11, 2001.

    It feeds my soul and gives me such great pride and hope to see neighbors taking strangers into their basements, comforting one another's children, or to watch a lone man wrench his flag free of its housing on a fallen porch and climb a great pile of rubble nearby and pause; yes; stubbornly plant his flag – our flag now – atop that pile of rubble. THIS, it means, IS OURS. I only wish it did not take disaster to bind us so.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joplinn Tornado

    Puny houses... to crushed houses... I hate the sirens which is why Joplin got hit

    May 25, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mark

    Project HAARP can alter weather patterns. Read up. HAARP's ionospheric superheaters are always operational before a 'natural' disaster.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kish

    What a shame..a religious debate instead of heartfealt sympathy for the victims who didn't deserve this destruction. Best wishes and deepest sympathies from OZ.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. The upside


    May 25, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • davidloc

      If you want to do something , help or at least give your condolences to these poor brave people. they are your fellow Americans not someone who deserves this kind of response like you are actually doing anything. The citizens of Joplin are amazing in the way they are already digging themselves out after getting hit twice and if you can help them please do.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. Name*Just me

    My brother stopped there to get something to eat. When he got out of the truck he saw hundreds of birds in one tree. He said they were making a screaming noise. He figured that was to strange and got back in his truck. As he was driving off the sky turned dark. He beat the storm by moments. 30 miles out the sky was clear again.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  8. popeye


    May 25, 2011 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    You realize the deceased were probably praying for their life as well, right? I hate that these events always focus on faith. It has nothing to do with faith. Pure chance, luck, or preparedness. There isn't much you can do to survive a direct impact by an EF-5 tornado, anyway.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Tiffany


      Don't be a downer dummy. Just because you don't believe the same as others, you don't have to discourage those who do believe. Dumb a s s.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Chainyanker

      @Tiffany It's called freedom of speech, seems like you don't believe in it. And your last comment, spoken like a real Christian, right?

      May 25, 2011 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Patti

      Those in the direct path of the tornado were probably praying "THY WILL BE DONE"! I say this because an F5 literally dissected the state of Alabama on April 27th and several DID live to tell about it. My heart goes out to those of you who are "blasting" the Christians and their faith. I pray that one day you see you are WRONG! HE'S WAITING FOR YOU TO COME TO HIM AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS AND IT WILL BE GIVEN!!!!

      May 26, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tiffany Koons

    Penny Jason, I hope you find your cat! There is an animal rescue page on facebook. Please look there to see if your cat is there. 🙁 Glad you are safe.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
    • N

      Do not give up hope for any pets missing in these storms. They are still finding people's pets from the AL storms.

      May 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. moonprincess

    i so agree with u. u spoke exactly what i tnk! i mean america was the worlds superpower when? when we had GOD as our first. u noe.? now its all backwards and look at whats happening. god noes we can handle dis and hes trying to give us a warning. WAKE UP AMERICA. WERE A CHRISTIAN COUNTRY. GOD OUR SAVIOUR IS THE ONLY WAY. THAT goes for me also. never ever lose ur faith.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Chainyanker

      So if America was strong when it was a Christian country how come China is getting stronger by the day, they are not a Christian country, most people there are atheists.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  12. Zach

    Wheres the Military at least they need to get involved to help out in his devastation

    May 25, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Nate

      It's called the National Guard, and they are helping........

      May 25, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  13. lisa

    It rains on the good and bad

    May 25, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. maria

    124 people that we know of were killed. Expect the number to continue to climb. Very sad.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mary

    Stop with the religious nonsense as a way of explaining a tornado. The country was plenty "Christian" back in the 50's and prior to that, when similar storms of this magnitude did even more damage and took many more lives.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      Agreed.... It's time to stop viewing tornadoes as 'god's wrath' (there is no such person, place or thing) and see it as nature pitching a **tch.

      May 25, 2011 at 4:21 am | Report abuse |
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