Editor's Note: CNN's Ashley Fantz, who grew up in Missouri, is on the ground in Joplin talking with residents who survived the tornado.
As a little girl growing up in Missouri my parents rushed me into our basement several times when the tornado sirens went off. They always did a good job of making it seem fun, like we were going to play down there. Each time we emerged, luckily there was no damage. I don't recall anything terrible happening.
So as I got older and the sirens sounded, I usually went outside to watch the night sky light up. Dark clouds always pass, I figured. I rarely thought about getting hurt. Like a lot of people who grow up here, I figured the odds were on my side.
I heard the same refrain from folks in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri.
It was just going to be a big awful storm and it would pass. Everything would be fine - that's what survivors told me over and over as they stood on the splinters of their homes.
Trees on one block were decapitated. A car door hung 30 feet in the air from one of the huge old sycamores that had refused to give up its thickest limb.
An older man, looking dazed, stood on a swath of insulation. Charles Richardson - with red suspenders neatly holding his Carhartt jeans in place - wore a backpack oxygen tank, the tubes running into his nose. His beige work shirt was covered with dry patches of blood. As I got a few feet from him, I saw he was crying. I stopped.
"Come on now, come on," he said.
Interview me if you need to, his tone said, just ask your questions and leave me alone because this is hard enough.
He blew his nose with a pink handkerchief and told me he had lived in Joplin his whole life.
"I've seen tornadoes come and go," he said. "This one came when I happened to be in my garage. It came so fast and I went and ran from my house but it was there and it was on me."
"You know it's funny girl, I used to love to watch these," he said. "But this one was so black. It was not what I wanted to see."
His voice trailed off. He looked around.
Everything he had ever owned was no more. The only recognizable thing left of the home he had lived in his entire life was the skeleton of a fireplace - a dozen bricks.
He looked at me again.
"They always came and went," he said.
He didn't know this storm would be any different.
I didn't know what else to say to him, so we just stood there together for a minute. I told him my name. I said that I had grown up with the sirens and I used to think the storms were beautiful too.
He, meanwhile, tugged on his red suspenders trying to keep himself from crying in front of me, a young woman - a stranger.
Then he put his hands on my arm and said, "That's enough, girl."
There was nothing else to say.