As some of you, whoever you are, may not know there was a tornado in Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011.
It was actually a terrifying experience for me. I was actually in the Long John Silver’s on Rangeline Road when it hit. We workers had no warning at all of what was going on. Why? No radio and we were unable to hear the sirens from inside the building. When we heard the first set of sirens go off, honestly, we couldn’t believe it. We went outside and watched as clouds began to pass and form into what was the most horrific tornado in Joplin history, in my life history. *Hoping I can breathe here, still having a little bit of trouble with it all..*
*Breath* Okay, so I am outside the store and I watch as tiny little strands of clouds come down and all begin to go to one remote location before forming into one large tornado. Then, it is headed our way. I’m dumbfounded and I can’t really move. My co-workers drag me inside and I’m standing there holding the door shut as they go and try to find keys to lock the doors. Yes, we attempted to lock the doors. We didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it actually was.
I then call my father, who is on the southern side of Houston, Texas. Here is the call:
“Dad,” I say behind tears and fear.
“What?” he grumbles. I woke him from his sleep.
“There is a tornado and I’m scared and I don’t know what to do..” I’m rambling really fast and shaking so bad and attempting to hold the front door shut as it begins to get closer and the wind is blowing around and trying to open the door.
“Calm down, it’s fine. Just get somewhere safe and it will all be okay.” I know he is trying to reassure me that it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be, but it was bad and I knew that.
“No, no. It’s here and it’s really bad and AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!” I scream as the wind begins to pull me out of the building through the front door. Everyone is screaming for me to get inside the walk-in cooler. I can’t move. Again I’m being dragged to the cooler and away from danger. My ex is there with me and he is trying to calm me down. My phone is dead and the last thing my father heard was the mostly deathly scream.
The only thing on my mind was my car, my dogs, my books… One of our workers had not made it into the cooler and next thing we hear is hail as it pelts the store. The wind picks up more violently as it tries to pick up the building from the bolts in the concrete. I’m violently shaking and the older lady is there and is holding me still as best as she can. My ex is there holding the door to the cooler shut through the entire storm (which lasted all of a minute and a half, if that).
He opens the door a crack and says, “It’s all gone..” First thing we did was start yelling for the boy who didn’t make it into the cooler with us. He yells back that he is okay and that he found a place to be safe, the bathroom. As we push the door further open, I can’t help but shake more and cry. It begins to rain again and we get back in the cooler.
When the storm has finally passed and it’s safe for us to get out fully. I push my way past the rubble and head to the back of the store. My car is demolished and everything is gone for miles. It looked as if a bomb had struck Joplin. Half of our town was destroyed, gone, history.
As others begin to emerge from their spots of safety, fear rises among all of us. Tears are what connected us then. We did not know each other, but we all went around and hugged the other.
My ex, the older lady, and myself begin our way to find our co-worker that ran off. He is down directing traffic. We walked around the building and saw the devastation. The only thing left of Long John Silver’s was the cooler where we were and the bathroom. Everything else was rubble.
At some point I find a working cell phone and call my dad. He is already on his way to me. I’m shaking again and run to my house, which was a few blocks from the store. I felt horrible. I had left my dogs locked out of the house, and I prayed that they were alive and okay. When I got there, they were. They had managed to get inside the house when the storm blew open the back door. They were shaking, I was shaking. I didn’t know where to go. I had no working phone, I had nowhere to go, and I didn’t know what to do.
For the next few hours I had walked around town with two dogs. One in my arms and the other beside me on a leash. I was not able to get a ride because of my pets. I made my way back to my house. My landlord is there and he goes inside the house with me. He left then, not even offering me a place to stay or a ride. I packed up what clothes and water I could in two backpacks. Then another one or so passed of me walking. I found someone to let me charge my phone for just a few minutes.
I had 10 voicemails and it seemed like a million missed calls and texts. I was finally able to text someone because calls were unable to be made. My boss from LJS asked if we were okay and where we were. I told him I was somewhere on Rangeline wandering around because I knew not what else to do.
Finally I met him at the store and he took me home.
For those people who think they know fear. You may not. I never want to be in that situation ever again. I am not entirely myself yet. That night after the tornado, I did not sleep. I missed a week of work due to the stress and not even being able to focus on anything. The past few weeks I just stared out a window and didn’t blink, barely breathed, and didn’t talk. I tried to be my bubbly self, but it was just too much.
Last week my dad made me go to a counselor and I broke down.
The only good thing that has happened thus far is that I found another place to live and found another 2004 pale yellow convertible VW bug. Everything is almost taken care of and life is slowly making its way back to normal.
I’m hoping that everyone who reads my blog understands why I wasn’t able to be online here. I pray that if you have helped in some way, you weren’t the ones that came from other states and just looted whenever you could. The people of Joplin have lost more than just homes and transportation, but we lost our well-being, our security, a part of our lives, and some have lost families. And I know that I wasn’t the only one affected, but jokes are too soon. I can’t even walk into a LJS without shaking and hyperventilating. Even thinking about the hold incident, I start to shake and become pale and just start zoning out and I just can’t take it.
So, thank you for reading whoever you are.