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. Xqt

    It was a tornado people. These things happen. Pick up the dead, and rebuild.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
    • LA

      Pretty obvious you and yours are safe and sound.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lisa

    Sad...I am saddened by those who are suffering! God be with you! I feel your lose and pray for you tonight.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. incredired

    I live in Springfield MO. Only 70 miles from Joplin. These devastated people need prayers, and they do work. My Dad has survived a massive heart attack due to hundreds and thousands of prayers from all those whose lives he impacted. Blaming God for these natural disasters (or not so natural...thanks HAARP) is not proper. I am by no means the most religious person, but I am spiritual, I believe in higher powers (Father God, Mother Nature) and that belief keeps me strong. Its a miracle my Dad is alive, and a miracle that my cousins who reside in Joplin are safe and well, but many people are not. Put yourself in the shoes of these people and think about what you'd be saying in your last moments of life. Even when it wasn't my life at stake I begged and pleaded God to not take my Dad from me. Our government is causing this devastation by their antenna array in Alaska, and we are all blaming God? Seriously?! WAKE UP! Our country is corrupt just as the Nazi Republic was. As citizens we should focus on banding together regardless of beliefs, race, gender, background, or family name, and take care of each other all the while we put a stop to the major corruption going on. If you haven't read about HAARP then I highly suggest you do, because without knowledge we can't stop any thing.
    The people of Joplin need support, compassion, care, and necessities. A community without clean water can't survive without the communities around. Springfield residents have packed approximately 5 semi trucks with items to help these people get through this. Its time to stop bickering about religion and beliefs and become the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA....BY THE PEOPLE,FOR THE PEOPLE. Our forefathers would be ashamed of what we have turned this country into. Obama wants change? Well we all need to show him change by taking back our rights, safety, and dignity and send him back to where he came from. He cannot rebuild our country while funding projects like HAARP or MPCV (for NASA). We are all becoming part of a vicious cycle of disillusioned societies. Stop the fighting, and begin helping each other. Not only will we feel better about ourselves, our children will be better off in the long run, and our country will again be number one. Its the lonliest number, sits the number one, but two can be as bad as one.....and someday maybe we can all unite and make this country the best, and not lonely. Good deed come back around, just as karma will kick your a$$, so keep that in mind when my words here are judged and scrutinized.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • steve

      TLDNR

      May 25, 2011 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Cranky

      What steve said: "Duhhhh....words big....me no like....duhhhh *drool*" (two paragraphs, really? two whole paragraphs is too long for you?)

      What incredired said: "Where's my tinfoil hat?"

      May 25, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. nluv

    yes mother nature can be horrible. When it comes down to it the way we treat our earth is bad, if u think about it. I have studied this in my environmental science class our earth is only doing things to repair itself. It means no harm on us. Yes it saddens me whem it does involve humans and life in general but we can not blame god we need to blame no one but how we treat our communities and our earth.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Cranky

      To be fair, the Earth is always in a process of repairing and correcting itself. Since it's not a closed system, there's always imbalances and the weather is the main way the planel gets itself in balance.

      For all our egotism, we're nothing more than toe jam to the Earth.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Actually I think we are more like a cancer to the planet. It'll just have to see if we go into remission or not.

      May 25, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. VG

    It makes no sense to try to apply supernatural explanations to a natural disaster. Tornadoes have been happening for as long as the earth has existed; they're not a punishment for anything, they just *are,* like the ocean and the sky. Maybe if we all directed our energy toward helping the people who lost their homes instead of arguing about religion, we could actually do some good.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
    • incredired

      Good is being done, by those who don't judge, and by those who hold compassion for others' losses. It seems that none of you saw how Springfield MO came together as a strong well minded community to do everything possible at this point to help those with devastated lives. We aren't done yet. This has nothing to do with religion, but there's not a thing wrong with prayers for less fortunate beings. Tornados happen, yes and they always will but I beg all of you to research HAARP. I think your minds will change regarding whether this deadly attack on the middle of the US is all just nature or an alteration made by science. Our food for example, is genetically modified, water contains flouride and many other dangerous chemicals, and we wonder why Obama pushes health care reform..... for goodness sakes everyone....COMMON SENSE!

      May 25, 2011 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
  6. rockywoodridge

    what a bummer!

    May 25, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. ***dude***

    Tornadoes are the method the earth uses to repair itself?

    Wow, that is some crazzzzzy thinking! Did your environmental science class involve "smokin da dope"?

    May 25, 2011 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. ***dude***

    "Our food for example, is genetically modified, water contains flouride and many other dangerous chemicals". You correlate this to "attacks" by tornadoes? Oh, that's logical – Not!

    May 25, 2011 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. mark

    horrifying! Live in dallas, and dread the sirens in tornado season. Heres wishing joplin as speedy a recovery as is possible. Am saddened at thier loss of 120plus citizens. What a truly terrifying death they must have suffered.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. mark

    wow. You are a real class act. Get some help, honey!

    May 25, 2011 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  11. ***dude***

    All structures in tornado prone area should have underground bunkers. Rebuild smart.

    May 25, 2011 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Ginny

      I live in South Carolina. Many places here have very high water tables so building basements or underground bunkers is EXTREMELY expensive. I have a pool and at the deepest end, it's only five feet deep. It has a drain so I can pump out ground water in case I ever have to empty it. Otherwise, it would literally blow right out of the ground. Imagine the cost of not only building an underground bunker but the cost of continuously running a pump to keep it water free. And, of course, you'd need to have a generator kick in to continue pumping since the power just might go out during extremely bad weather.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mark's mother

    Mark, there is no way Satan is a woman and I taught you better. Women are to be respected; just go to your room.

    May 25, 2011 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
  13. Phionah

    Forgive me for asking, but weren't people warned to vacate these areas in time? If no, then i feel really badly for them. But if yes,.....

    May 25, 2011 at 3:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Sari in Vegas

      Storm sirens usually go off about 5 minutes before the tornado hits- if you're lucky. You never know where it is going to touch down exactly, so there really is no way to evacuate beforehand- unless you permanently leave the Midwest altogether like I did.

      May 25, 2011 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Loreeeeeeee

      Haha. Sure, you usually get about 30 seconds.

      Tornadoes are not hurricaines. They are not predicable. Would you evacuate for a severe thunderstorm on the off chance your house might be hit by lightning?

      May 25, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. Nancy

    Where's the Jason's cat?!?!

    May 25, 2011 at 4:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. Sudakar

    Lets pray the god to come back to normal situation's instead of talking about faith...the group prayer is powerful than anything...God bless Joplin.

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