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. Many more to come

    Extention protocol: 2012 and beyond

    google that website

    May 25, 2011 at 4:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      What website?

      May 25, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      No thanks

      May 25, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • fry

      seems to me there are 50 different scientist all saying something different about the sun so I doubt that has anything to do with it. I more for the the climate changes due to our use of fossil fuels.

      May 27, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Albot

    Hopefully the cat road the wind into a tree safely.

    May 25, 2011 at 5:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Grumpster

      "Road".....the sorry state of our language affairs rears its ugly head again. It's "RODE!" Go back to school.

      May 25, 2011 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Pa

      There you have the result of Ovomit's education system. All of America is becoming illiterate. But that's OK. We can now give blacks and illegal immigrants a seriously substandard education. Along with everybody else.

      May 25, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Cosmic

      PA you inbred moron, please go kill yourself and rid the world of 1 additional brainless voter...you are a worthless oxygen thief...

      May 25, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joey

    I have experienced two tornadoes.
    I saw one over my country house from town, seven miles away. It damaged houses near ours, but only got trees around our property, leaving the house, with two dogs inside, untouched.
    Another passed over my parents' house at night when I was there at Christmas. It sounded like a freight train traveling on top of the house. It did nothing to our house, but tore roofs off nearby houses on our street. Another tornado cause multiple deaths in my parents' town.
    I was just lucky both times.
    Weather occurs at random, in patterns that are not exact.
    I feel terrible that so many have died in these towns where I have worked and visited, including especially Tuscaloosa and Joplin.
    I posted on the importance of storm cellars recently, and someone retorted that he could not afford one.
    I feel bad now that I can't help more, having budgeted as much as I can afford to send.
    If everybody sends any donation that he can, it will help.
    One can pray, but if God exists, we are His hands here.
    Do something.

    May 25, 2011 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. erica

    Poor kitty 😥

    May 25, 2011 at 6:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Grumpster

      My granny always used to say "best cat's a dead cat."

      May 25, 2011 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
    • DonnyB4

      Grumpster – and now your granny is dead. Perhaps it's for the best.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. cherrios

    What?!?! "Glad he heeded the sirens for once" ? Honestly.. people who do not heed anything like sirens or weather reports, deserve their destiny, death. Stubborness and ignorance of their own safety and of others just does not make any sense. What good does it do? You are risking the lives of the rescuers and those of their colleagues to safe your stupidity..... Goof, for once you listened. That should teach you a lesson and at least you live and not 6' under.

    May 25, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
    • scd

      I'm guessing you don't live in the plains. The tornado sirens sound often, and it's nearly always a false alarm. Part of the problem is that they are wired to sound for an entire county, even though the majority of the county is nowhere near the storm. People just get desensitized to them.

      Ironically, this year has been unusually quiet where I live. The sirens haven't sounded at all yet other than the monthly tests, and there haven't been any severe storms at all. But after Joplin, people are suddenly taking it very seriously and yesterday just a cloudy sky with some rain rattled a lot of nerves.

      May 25, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      The problem is they blow sirens all the time, including testing them. Makes people complacent. Like here, the sirens go off a few times a month with no tornado – you get desencitized.

      May 25, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Loreeeeeeee

      You must not live anywhere where there are tornadoes. Sirens DO ring for an entire county. There are only so many times you listen to the sirens, only to find out that it is nowhere near you. We always hear the sirens, then watch the news to see just where a tornado actually is. Why take shelter when it is 30 miles from you and moving in the opposite direction?

      May 25, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • It Depends

      Where I live, we rarely heed the sirens either. Our county sounds the sirens not just for actual tornados on the ground, but for "radar-indicated" tornados, thunderstorm warnings, and any time there may be wind gusts over 50 mph. Living in the midwest, this means our sirens are going half the spring and summer. The boy has cried wolf far too many times to take sirens seriously here.

      May 25, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      It sounds like he heeded the storm tearing up the front of the store rather than the sirens.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Jade

      Yes, I understand why people would ignore the sirens if they keep wailing often. But then don't be surprised if you get caught in a tornado after you ignored them. I drive everyday, have never been in a major accident but I buckle up every time. And if I don't and fly through my windshield - my fault.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. Peace

    Dum to be angry with God! Only a fool would!

    May 25, 2011 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Yes, you should only be angry with yourself so long, otherwise it tears you up inside.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. Michael

    As for me and my family we will believe...

    May 25, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. The upside

    God is not rersponsible. Man is. Read about project HAARP. Google the tsunami bomb. Taxpayers fund projects that destroy the earth. We are just pawns in the chess games of the wealthy. Hang in there joplin.

    May 25, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Tia

      Thanks for taking the time to post. Now put your tin foil hat back on; I think the aliens have another message for you.

      May 25, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • MFS

      China and Russia too, not just the US. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Td–HItuoI and for Tia, http://www.haarp.alaska.edu/......yes, it exists, and you would be wise to learn more about it.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • myesh

      The wealthy are responsible for the tsunami? Here I thought it was the earthquake created the tsunami according to scientific research into the actual causes of tsunamis. How silly of me to believe that science learned the causes. [/sarcasm]

      Sorry about that, I can't be a member of your society. Aluminum hats make my head perspire and itch.

      May 25, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. The upside

    I'm not into aliens. They're boring and violent. The upside is becoming informed.

    May 25, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. The upside

    I'm not into aliens. They're boring and violent. The upside is becoming informed. While you sit and post all your life's pics on facebook and then tweet about them. Just doing what your told. Would love to stay and chat but i gotta go convince a jury not to give me 30 years.

    May 25, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      Kinda dim to be in a position where you're facing 30 years..

      May 25, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • CNN junkie

      First, a jury doesn't hand down sentences, a judge does. Second, I think you have some poop in your pants...

      May 25, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bill Getas

    AGENDA 21 is United Nations' socialist plan to force everyone into cities, "federalize" most land, remove private land ownership. Google it right off their own un.org website.

    See dutchsinse channel on youtube for 100% accurate tornado / severe weather prediction, based on observed HAARP / RADAR rings. Good thing the USAF has a plan for "owning the weather by 2025" - google it right off their own usaf.mil website !

    Evidence overwhelmingly suggests these storms are excited and dramatically boosted if not completely created.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Wow, this one needs the special platinum hat!

      May 25, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Ethernet

      Agenda 22. LMAO!!!
      Forget your meds? You will feel much better when you start taking them again.

      May 25, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ralph

    @ Tia... I laughed so much at the tin foil comment. Thanks for making my morning.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  13. Denise

    All my thoughts and prayers are with all those whos lives have been affected by the "vicious tornadoes" may God be with you all!!!!!!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. Vficial

    With all the end of the world stuff that was suppose to happen on that saturday the tornado hit I wonder what was going through the minds of the citizens of Joplin. With someone say the end of the world is coming on a certain date and the strongest tornado in history hits your town the same day. What is going through your mind at that time. Like OMG that guy was right this is the end. Then after everything is over you find out it just your town. I know a tornado is scary by itself but to have the thought of the world coming to an end at the same time had to be real terrifying. I know i would have been freaking out. Just the fact of not knowing what was going on and the rumor of the world ending on the same day. WOW that would have been crazy. Good luck to the victims who are alive and sorry for your lost for the loved ones lost.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Cranky

    Rick Morgan didn't "heed the sirens". He was going to drive back home like always, but when he got to the door, people were running inside screaming from getting hit by debris. Only when he looked outside and saw there was a tornado, he went and hid.

    That's like saying you planned on hiking up a volcano, but when you saw the lava bearing down 10 feet in front of you, you decided to put it off for a few days.

    That's not luck, that's survival instinct.

    May 25, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
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