Survivors of Joplin disaster recall narrow escapes

By The Associated Press Published: May 23, 2011

“It was 15 minutes of hell,” Wohlford said. “We were buried.”

The family was taken to a hospital, where a fleet of school buses brought in people with minor injuries. Wohlford helped unload passengers.

On Monday, one of those buses took his family to a shelter downtown because their car had been totaled by the storm in the Walmart parking lot. They weren't sure how they would get home — or what awaited them there.

———

Kelley Fritz and her husband spent part of Monday rummaging through the remains of a storage building. But they quickly realized they'd never find the things they had stored there or the many belongings that were ripped from their home after the twister tore away the roof.

When the worst of the weather had passed, their sons, both Eagle Scouts, went out to survey the neighborhood and quickly realized every home was destroyed.

“My sons had deceased children in their arms when they came back,” she said. “My husband and I went out and saw two or three dead bodies on the ground.”

Fritz was surprised she had survived. “You could just feel the air pull up, and it was so painful. I didn't think we were going to make it, it happened so fast.”

———

Matthew Parks works at a homeless shelter — and now he's concerned that he and his pregnant wife may end up living there after the twister badly damaged their house.

They weren't home when the tornado hit but returned Monday morning to find the ceiling in the kitchen caved in and water soaking the floor. The only room spared was the nursery prepared for their first child. It had virtually no damage.

While Parks collected baby clothes and other items from the nursery, his parents swept up broken glass and mopped water from the wood floor.

Eileen Parks had struggled to reach her son and daughter-in-law Sunday night. She was just happy they were OK.

“The phones were out and I thought, `Oh Matthew, please call me,“' she said.

———

Associated Press writers David Lieb, Jim Salter, Kurt Voigt and Alan Scher Zagier contributed to this report.

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