It turned out that we were in the absolute center of the largest tornado in history to hit Missouri. The building began to shake, and the sound of the tornado was so loud we couldn’t hear anything else. We hung on to one another as the roof blew off and the block wall began to shift and concrete blocks began falling on top of the tables we were under. Ceiling joists, wire, cable, insulation and all sorts of other building materials rained down on us. The girls felt their tables begin to tip downward from the weight of the falling wall, and the wall itself began to tip over farther.
Barbara began counting — she says it is a sort of automatic thing she does when something awful happens — and later determined that we were shaking and rolling for a full minute. It seemed much longer and much scarier. Steve and I, being closer to the outside, were pulled up and levitated a few inches into the storm but were kept from flying away by the tables and debris. It was one of the most frightening minutes of my life. We thought we were going to die, but, as Barbara said, at least we were going together.
The tornado moved on down the street, leaving total destruction in its wake. I was able, finally, to turn around in the small space we were in and climb out of a hole in the debris. Steve got out next, then Barbara and Dixie. We had a few bruises and scrapes, but were basically OK.
We climbed down a wall and out onto the parking lot, where all we could see was total destruction. By this time we were soaking wet. We had no coats and it was very windy, so we all got extremely chilled and cold. We used a few small bar towels to cover our heads, and Barbara found some plastic to drape around her shoulders to try to stay a little bit warm.
I began to try to find Steve and Dixie’s truck, but it had disappeared. Steve and Dixie walked a couple of blocks each way, and there was no sign of the vehicle. I am writing this on Tuesday morning, and they are up in Joplin trying to find the wreckage of their truck so they can prove to the insurance company that it was totaled.
As I was wandering around I saw a nearby van with two people in it. I went over with the intent of helping them and saw that they were dead. They were battered to death, and there was blood all over them. We’re fairly certain that their car had been picked up, flipped around and smashed into the pavement. I’m still carrying that vision around in my head.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Santa Barbara newspaper tells how former residents survived Joplin tornado
A great first person account from Robin Sanchez, Neosho, of surviving the Joplin tornado was posted earlier today on the Santa Barbara, Calif. website, Noozhawk. Sanchez is a former Santa Barbara resident. The Sanchezes and another couple were eating in a Joplin restaurant when the tornado hit: