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Sunday afternoon July 22, 2011
A F5 Tornado
Strikes Joplin Missouri

Reportedly there were approximately 8,000 homes, 400 businesses, 4 schools and 1 hospital destroyed or damaged. Restoration Song traveled to Joplin to ask some of the tornado survivors to record and share their stories. We hope that these reports will give others, facing trials and peril, to be encouraged in their own circumstances. When you see the total destruction in Joplin, you have to ask yourself how did anyone survive? There were many miracles and these stories seem to have one theme in common, that survivors for whatever reason found themselves in the only place in their home that survived. When you see that 1/3 of Joplin was destroyed by winds in the excess of 260 mph, the fact that there were not more than the 155 (which is largest ever for one tornado) die seems a miracle and makes these stories intriguing. Restoration Song intends to follow up in a year with these that told their story here and ask if they would be willing to give an update. Respond here with your story.


Rosalee Helton

Rosalee is 85 year old and was living in a retirement complex.

"I was trying to close the bedroom door so I could get in the hallway, I thought that would be the safest place. And I could not get the door shut and the wind was blowing so hard and so I just plopped down by the side the bed and that is the only place in that apartment where you can see the floor. That's the only place I had to get. It is a good thing I didn't get in the hallway or the bathroom or any other place."

"And I laid there, and I heard the lady next door, north of me, Dorothy Nickels, she hollered, GET ME OUT OF HERE! But there were two ladies killed on this side of the street, ugh, in 46 which was the apartment over the office and there was one in 34 in the first building behind the office."

"I got out of there and all I had was just three or four scratches. Up here on my forehead and had one on my back and one on each leg. Just little short pieces. I was peppered with pieces of glass. When I got out to my brothers and after I took a shower they said it looked like a hog pen had been in there." (laughing) And glass and it was peppering up on my head but it never did cut but on that one place and when I had a piece of glass about like that fell on my head but it fell flat. But I pulled it off and put it away. And then I, when I got out there, there was a piece of plywood or something, it felt more like limp cardboard, you know how wiggle, you can bend it and it was about that long and about that wide."

"But I didn't seem to be scared. I didn't have time to. No I am one of those that gets scared afterwards. It was about Thursday, about Thursday before I actually got the color back in my face." This is about the fourth time some of my family has come over. The is the first time that I have come back to see it. This is the first time I have been back here. And the people that got me out they walked me up to the other end of the street and found three sofa cushions and set me down, leaning back against a car and that's when my brother found me. He didn't even know anything was happening until somebody, until my sister called him. She was working out the, she's a phone operator out at Downstream and she called him and asked him about me. And he said I didn't even know anything about it. They were busy watching something, a ball game I think it was."

"Yea I think they said, I think the first one they found was my next door neighbor in 19. And ugh they said there was blood all over the place. But you know those girders from the church lit in those trees behind the house and not much telling what would have happened if those trees hadn't been there. But I heard that roof start going in the hall, that's when it tried to, hurried and got down beside the bed. Course by that time, I think, the worse of it had already gone over. And the rocks and everything fell on my bed and the bricks out of the top of the, well from the window sill, bottom window sill up, the front roof, ugh, the front wall fell in the bedroom and living room both. But we got a big mirror about this big square we got it out with just very few scratches no breaks."

"Well I got out with both pair of glasses, reading glasses and a pair of oh ugh sun glasses. And I got out with pair, ugh, what the shoes I had on and one other pair of shoes. And I got my purse, a coat and a jacket. It was a good thing I got those because I was freezing, I was wet. I already put my pajamas on, I'm legally blind and, ugh, they ugh. I had put my pajamas on and was going to lay down on the bed and listen to my digital talking books. And I got lost in my cassette player but I did get out with my digital player and two tapes."

"So I consider myself very fortunate. Somebody was looking after me." (laughing) "Are you with the paper here?"

Interviewer: "No I am with a ministry called Restoration Song and we are recording people's stories and would like to follow up on you later if you don't mind."

Rosalee: "Well right now I don't have any place to live, only with my brother. We have been looking for apartments. Here was a Senior citizens, yea we had 40 apartments here. Ten here on Sergeant and we had, lets see, 12 two bedrooms, they faced Dully Drive and then there was five duplexes on the east side and I lived in the last house south and then the north apartments and there was two two story houses. One faced 25th street and the other faced Dully Drive kind of angle this way across the corner there."

"And there was 40 apartments in all of the places and I guess the three was all that passed away."


Shane Galbraith

Shane was not home when the tornado destroyed his house, he was in Branson, Missouri to help his parents salvage things out of their flooded home. To alleviate the flood waters above the Table Rock Dam, The Corp of Engineers had to open all ten gates which resulted in water rising 5 or 6 feet into homes along side the Taney Como lake.

"Well on principle and there is a scripture about it, I don't know, but if you don't take what someone's given, when they are trying to help, you've taken something away from them. So if they are offering water, they give you a case of it, I had six cases behind my piano and eventually these people have drank it. They go away disappointed if you don't take what they are offering."

(Speaking of difficulty in giving an interview) "I've had two neck surgeries and sometimes its hard to even swallow. The neck muscles don't work anymore so when," (interrupted by volunteers asking about where to put some things) "I can't talk very well when I get excited. Actually I used to do radio but with the medicine I take for my neck surgery and the combination of the nerve damage, it makes it really hard to talk if I don't have the water in my hand I sound funny, like I stutter, but it isn't, I just can't get the word out."

"It takes a lot of (working through) bad to get something good come out of it, I guess."



Stacey Fowlen

"I'm from St. Louis and we have been walking around helping people. The guys walked up to someone rummaging around and asked if they could help him? And the guy said yea, can you help me find Jesus? And what he meant was a picture that his grandmother had given him and he had been looking for it for a week and couldn't find it. So they prayed together and 30 seconds later they picked up a rock and there was the picture of Jesus. So we're going to help people find Jesus." (laughing)


Larry and Judi Steel

That Sunday morning Judi reports that her Pastor's message was about Job. That evening the tornado hit wiping them out.

She reports that she and her husband were in their closet holding onto the door knobs to keep the doors from being sucked open. Just prior to entering the closet she was talking on her cell phone to her son. And thinking she had hung up she puts the phone in her pocket. On the other end of the call her son is living the experience as his parents are. As the roof goes from his parents house he reports in that instant to his wife. The Steels will survive in the closet with it ending up on top of the rubble leaning against the last of a partial wall. When the roar subsides they climb down and out to run across the street into a neighbor's garage to escape the drenching rain and wind that still continues.

Later while reliving their shared experience she relayed to her son how she was praying like she had never before prayed. He tries to correct his mother by saying, "No mom you were screaming!" She says, "No I was praying". He says, "No mom you were screaming! She is now emphatically saying, "No I was praying! I know distinctly what I was doing and it was praying" It seems as she was experiencing an internal confidence and peace in God, her son was hearing her outward urgent reaction for a desire to survive.


Todd Goostree

"Every now and then you will see holes" (referring to power saw cuts in floors to see into the crawl spaces) "where they are trying to find people."

(Immediately after the tornado, Todd had been trapped for 15-20 minutes in the crawl space under his house. Calling for help, no one came. Eventually he had to pull debris under the house with him to clear a way out. The small access hole at the back of the house was covered over with what remained of his house. He originally crawled under the house at the urging, by phone, from his daughter who's house was struck by the tornado prior to his and a few blocks earlier. After freeing himself Todd climbing over destroyed houses was desperate to get to his daughter's house and check on her. A trip that took an hour to go the normal five minutes. With phones unusable and without his knowledge she with the same desperation was picking her way through the debris to get to his house. They pass each other in the devastation without knowing it. After a few anxious hours they joyously find each other unharmed.)

"What is nice about the whole thing it's just the people that helped out. You wouldn't believe the outpouring of people that would stop and offer water and want to help you. I had people out there at that other house, people from Waco Texas. I had people from Peculiar Missouri lets see Indiana I mean from all over the country people just showed up. Started helping I mean they just came down the road one after another trying to help."

"I don't know what I am looking for? And I'm trying to find my granddad's red, white and blue civil war pocket knife out of all of that. I don't think I will find it. I'll keep looking for awhile. It should be back underneath all that stuff. I may start digging in that pile."

"I've been gone for a week and a half to help my girlfriend. We rode it out, we made it. They're going to make it. They found a rent house. I moved in with my mom. And my daughter is down at Oklahoma City. My girlfriend, Kathy, she lost her job. She lost her house, she lost both cars and lost her job. Four things everything she owns. And Haley worked at St. Johns Hospital and that got hit by the tornado. She was a substitute teacher there at the hospital and lived over here. So she lost her car and job, same thing. And she applied down there at St. Johns in Oklahoma City. I think she is going to get on there. I told her to tell them what you went through and maybe they will help you out and try to get you on."

"I had a lot of good people. You know the biggest thing I miss of..?" (pause) "You know I don't miss any of these houses, they're nothing. But I miss the people. Yea, these people, you won't find, it's kind of touchy, but you won't find any better people. That's what's" (pause) "touching" (pause) "I've, I've lost all my neighbors" (emotional pause) "good people."

"I don't know What I'm really out here digging for? But yea the biggest thing I lost here is like having guys like Don next door, he's a retired fellow. And the people next door, they were gone too. They were out in Louisiana. He is a teacher at Tulane University in Louisiana. Most of the people around in four or five houses were gone. You know. That's the reason they didn't get (pause) bad too. But I hate, it's sad to me to lose all my good neighbors. You know I knew everyone up and down the road. Why I would have trusted" (emotional speech) "any of them. Anything I had."

(Referring to my question about neighbors building back) "Well I think they will but you have guys like Don, he's retired now. Oh a few of them will. These people probably won't be here. Joyce passed away, there'll be a few, Audia down the road may build back. There is an old timer lived down there who every Saturday had a garage sale, it got him, Odell. It's just touching to lose your, you don't, I didn't really, there's a few people I lost. But I felt like I lost the whole neighborhood, not just" (pause) "the people that passed away, I felt like I lost everybody."

"That's how it is. You pick up the pieces and go on. What pieces?" (laughing as he looks at pile that was his house. We laugh and I say yea what piece, I know you were looking for that one piece, that one piece) "I'm looking."

"Well I don't want to even start digging on this cause FEMA is supposed to pay for cleaning up, supposedly the structure, but they won't clean any of this up." (referring to the yard area around) "you know anything in the yard they're not supposed to clean up they're just supposed to clean that up, that's what I heard." (We laugh as we observe that the house is scattered all over the yard) "I don't want, there is nothing in there that I really can't live without."

"Worse thing out of everything, is touching for me to say, talking about the neighbors, but its the good people. Family and good people."

(referring to pile laughing) "I just think they will consider that one a 100% loss. I would think so. I am out here just scouting." (Starts digging a little in rubble) "I would imagine that pocket knife is somewhere between there and that truck." (truck 100 feet away) "But as far as finding it? I just giving it the once over, one more time to see if that sucker is laying there, shining at me?" (pauses looking around) "I am not up to this."


Chris and Karen Stewart

Interviewer: "I'm Leonardo from Restoration Song and I was wondering if you would mind telling us your story?"

Karen: "We give it a lot now. We tell our story everywhere we go. Well Chris was out doing what all men seem to do. Looking for the tornado. And I go scream at him get in here or they say you will die. And I got him in and it took us both to shut the door because that was about the time it hit and got into gear. And we started for where everybody goes, the bathroom where they tell you to go. And the instant we got to the bathroom, God says No, not there, and pointed literally to the closet and that was all that was left. God is good! God is good!"

"And of course we were praising and worshiping Him. And pleading the blood of Jesus all over everything and to take care of us and praising Him and thanking Him for all the things that He does. And doing that standing up in the closet and the next thing we are doing that laying down in the closet. And never knew that we got" (pause) "We had bruises and things, never felt a pain, never felt any fear, never anything. And there was a little hole, ugh, in the closet" (pause) "the way it fell over, it was the wall, and my husband saw it but before that he said hey don't look out because there is nothing there." (laughing) "And I go, ok" (laughing)

"and about that time you could smell the gas ...too much gas. And said there is a place here and edged out and he had some bruises and scratches on his arm over there. I had a scratch and bruise here."

Chris: "And we had literally crawled out underneath the closet. The way it tilted up. The bottom two by fours around the bottom of the closet had come up and the way it was leaning we had just enough space to shimmy out."

Karen: "And I tell everybody this body of mine should not have gone through that hole. That God slimmed me down and fluffed me back up after I got out and I am right back to normal." (laughter) "and we bless Him and praise Him all the time. Yea, yea and where everything that we've done has had His hand in it. Anything that's been done has had God's hand in it. Our insurance person, to see about it, walked up out in the street and he said something to us and we said yes praise God. And he said, you christians? We said yes and he said can I pray for you? And I'm going, we got the right insurance man, right here, God sent him. And he has been wonderful, they have done everything they can do to help."

"And Chris's mom lives across town in a three bedroom house, by herself, so we are over there staying with her until we rebuild and just one thing after another, people have given us things, people have done things for us. I mean I have never seen such an outpouring, it's been marvelous."

Chris: "The Christian community has really pulled together with this."

Karen: " Its, its wonderful"

Chris: "Well that group that gave you water, ugh, where? They were from Chicago or some place but they're working with one of the churches over here. They came down to work with them. And they're out watering and giving sandwiches to people out here trying to clean up. And just, that's the way its been."

Karen: "And within, within 20 minutes I would say as soon as the hail quit and the really bad rain and a lot of that lightning, there were people running around here giving triage and how, I, I had no idea where they came from. I mean they had to just like, be ministering angels because I never seen any of these people before. So they're not from our neighborhood that I know of anyway. But I mean everybody has been quick to respond and help. Course this is the only disaster this bad, we've been in tornados before but nothing like this. But, you know, we are looking forward to seeing how this is going to turn out."

Interviewer: "Are you going to rebuild here?"

Karen: "Yes sir we are! We haven't got the plans yet.
(laughing) "We're going to have to go outside the city to find plans, apparently because there is none here. But, yea, we're going to build when we get all this stuff cleared out."

"We found out that besides the few mementos and things we had, which were precious to us, all the rest is junk. We had way too much of it. One way to get rid of it, I wouldn't advise it" (laughing) "but I'll tell you what, you know, God is good and He is replacing everything that we've lost. Yea!"

Interviewer: "Restoration"

Karen: "That's it"

Interviewer: "And that's the song you sing!"

Karen: "You better believe it!"


Doug Haynes

Interview to be added soon.


Laura Lenhart

Interview to be added soon.


Nick Cory

Interview to be added soon.


Pastor Bruce Allen

Interview to be added soon.


Sharon Jones

Interview to be added soon.


Tim Prator

Interview to be added soon.

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Holes were cut in flooring by rescue personnel to check crawl spaces to see if people were trapped or hurt below.
Prator family survived by taking refuge in basement across town.
Sharon packing up or picking up?
The Faith Baptist Parsonage once stood here.
Faith Baptist taken down to the foundation and basement.
Nick and friend looking for his aunts memorabilia.
Nick's house, where his aunt lived, was destroyed.
Little is left of the Kingore's home.
Laura believes to have saved parents by warning them, by phone, to wait outside the area rather than going home.
Doug safe from the storm immediately went to neighbor's houses searching for survivors.
Chris and Carol's lot cleared for new construction.
What used to be Chris and Carol's home piled on the curb for pickup.
The arrow shows a hole made by Todd digging way out from the crawl space under his house.
This was Todd's home.
Todd's truck went airborne traveling 300 ft. from in front of his house.
The garage, across the street, where they took shelter from the rain immediately after the tornado destroyed their home.
Larry and Judi end up in a tipped over closet on top of this pile that used to be their home.
Stacey and friends from the House of Prayer in St. Louis help owner clean his property.
Sentimental moment with Shane showing off his family pictures found in the rubble.
Shane gets plenty of help sifting through what used to be his house.
Shane used to have a three story house.
85 year old, Roselee gets down on the floor between the window and the bed. This turns out to be the only place in the house where no debris fell.
Roselee Helton's home viewed into her bedroom where she took refuge.
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