This is a simple story of a simple family trying to slow down this crazy life and enjoy the "moments"...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kim's Story

The following is my sister-in-law Kim's story of what happend two weeks ago.....I can't read it without crying....but they are tears of fear mixed with tears of gratefulness.....

Sunday, May 22nd , 2011, a date I will never, ever forget. I have been meaning to take the time to sit down and recount that evening’s events, putting it into writing, so here goes…
That Sunday started out like any other Sunday. 
We went to church and after church my sister-in-law, Shannon, and I switched kids around as we often do.  We had my nephew’s 11th birthday party that evening and decided that all 4 boys would go home with her,  and Spencer and I would take Carolyn and Scarlett home with us. So we went our separate ways and had plans to meet up at the birthday party. The party was originally planned for 5 o’clock at my in-laws pool, but we were more than likely changing it to Shannon and Barrett’s house because it was forecasted to rain later that evening. Shannon called later to tell me that Barrett was bringing the 4 boys over to our in-law’s house to swim. She also told me the party was moved to 5:30 since it was just going to be at her house instead of the pool now. So the boys went swimming at their grandparents and we just planned to meet up at Shannon and Barrett’s for the party later on.
Later that afternoon I ride my bike up to the south YMCA which is only about 4 miles from my house. I leave the Y around 4:30 so I will have time to shower and get over to the birthday party. Our Y is located approx. ½ mile south of the St. John’s Hospital, on 32nd Street. Little did I realize that the bike ride to and from the Y is the last one I will be taking for weeks, if not months! I ride right by the hospital and through tons of housing that will be leveled within a little over an hour of me leaving the Y.
I get home and take a quick shower and get ready to head to Barrett and Shannon’s house. We are all ready to go around 5:15 when I am listening to the local radio station in my bathroom. They are talking about bad storms to our west and the possibility of some high winds, hail and a possible tornado spotted near Carl Junction (NW of us). I call Shannon and tell her that storms are moving into the area and we will head that way when they pass over. 

Around 5:40 Spencer’s Uncle Frank calls to see if we have left the house (his aunt and uncle live just down the road from us). I told him we were waiting out the storm and were leaving when it cleared up a little. He said it was horrible and to stay put and then we were cut off. I couldn’t believe he was out in the storm because it was getting so dark, windy and starting to hail. So we wait it out and even watch the storm roll in from an open garage door.

The darkness was like nothing I have ever seen with a storm, but never did Spencer and I realize what was behind that darkness. We are just waiting for the skies to lighten a little so we could head to the party. 
We had NO clue there was a tornado that had touched down in Joplin until my mom texted me a little after 6…these are the texts that went back and forth between the two of us for the next hour and a half..
MOM: let me know if you guys are okay. i know a tornado hit parts of Joplin. i am worried about you guys (6:07)

ME: didn't know an actual tornado hit parts...we have no working television. we are totally fine. just waiting it out to head to shannon's for bennetts bday party. (6:08)

MOM: i heard damage near 32nd and shifferdecker and st. johns hosp hit as well as some apartment complexes. so relieved about you guys. (6:11)

ME: the boys are at shannons...can't get ahold of bad damage over there?? call my cell if you can... (6:12)

MOM: can't get thru when i try to call you but they said 22nd and black cat road and mentioned 32nd and shifferdecker. try to text shannon let me know okay? (6:15)

ME: driving to shannons bc we still can't get a hold of anyone...damage and emergency vehicles all over. guess rangeline is pretty bad. (6:32)

MOM: that's what we heard please let me know anything as soon as you can we love you and be careful (6:35)

MOM: are you home yet (6:57)

MOM: do you have any news yet? the kids are okay right? i am worried... (7:34)

So needless to say, it was the LONGEST hour and a half of my life! We left the house as soon as we could get the girls in the car and headed to their neighborhood (approx. 5 miles from our house). People were just starting to get out after the storm, so it was kind of eerie driving across town. We came to the intersection of 26th and Shifferdecker, just ¼ mile from the entrance to their neighborhood. The scene at that point is nauseating …
Big houses to our right are half gone/destroyed and smaller homes and a neighborhood to our left is completely leveled. We can’t go straight or take a right onto 26th because of downed trees, poles and power lines. We are stuck. The girls are chipper and totally unaware in the back seat; their giggling and chatter making me even more sick to my stomach. I started shaking and wanted to cry so hard, but tears wouldn’t even come, my body didn’t know how to respond. Too many emotions…too many fears…
Spencer jumps out of the car and yells at me to take the girls back home and he will call me (which we have already realized is impossible since we cannot make or receive calls at this point).
It took all that I had to turn around and head back to the neighborhood.
I wanted to jump out and run towards them with Spencer, but I knew I couldn’t because I had the girls.
I was finally able to get through to my father-in-law, Steve, who was still back at his house in our neighborhood. I was becoming more and more upset (probably better defined as “hysterical”) and I do believe he yelled at me several times…not that I cared as he was 5 miles away and unable to see what I was seeing from this intersection. I turned around and kept him on the phone and drove home, shaking all over and on the verge of getting sick at any moment. Spencer beeped in and I clicked over to hear him say something about Harry and I could hear Shannon say something and then Spencer said “Frank has the boys” and then we were cut off.
He followed up with a text saying  “everyone is okay”. I started to calm down and told the girls no more talking as we drove back across town. I tried and tried to keep calling my mom and could never get through, lines were jammed and I was still shaking so much I had a hard time just dialing numbers. 

I get to my father-in-laws house and feel somewhat relieved for just a moment…

I tell Steve that Frank has the boys and he says he knew Frank had Wyatt and Ethan.

I am puzzled because I assumed Frank had my boys when Spencer told me that he had “the boys”.
Steve then goes onto tell me that Frank and Aunt Sana took Wyatt and Ethan after they swam earlier that afternoon and he was trying to figure out where Frank was. He was under the impression that they never left his house to go to the party and was somewhere else. I tell him that Frank called me at 5:40 as he was driving into the storm and I had no idea he had Wyatt and Ethan with him at that time! At this point I am making my own conclusions and am certain that when Spencer told me Frank had the boys, he was meaning Wyatt and Ethan and that quite possibly they never made it out to Shannons!

I am in complete panic and trying not to let my mind go there, but as I rehash what we drove up to at 26th and Shifferdecker, I am anything but positive.

Steve starts sensing this and is making up tons of stuff to make me think otherwise, but I can’t help it and the uncertainty, coupled with not being able to get ahold of ANYONE over on that side of town is killing me!
Finally Steve and I decide to take the girls to a friend’s house in the neighborhood and go back across town. Just as we are passing by our house my friend Melanie pulls up and I jump out to leave the girls with her.

She is taking them inside the house when Uncle Frank comes around the corner with my two boys, Susan and Sana.

I lose it and just start crying because up until that point I wasn’t sure if Wyatt, Ethan, Frank or Sana were even in my life anymore!

But there they are, Wyatt running into my arms and not a scratch on him.
Susan is holding Harry as his shoes are lost somewhere in what was left of my sister-in-law’s house.
He rode out the tornado in their basement, in the arms of Susan and Beth, a family friend who was there for the party that evening as well. Harry was really shook up and upset as he managed to survive an F5 tornado without the comfort of either of his parents. He hugged my neck so tight and wouldn’t let me set him down for quite a while.

As for Wyatt, it is at this point in the evening that I discover how truly gracious God was to us that fateful evening. I must have talked to Frank just moments before he ran off the road that evening to get away from the falling trees, poles and power lines, calmly telling the boys to “take a rest” and lie down in the floorboard. He was so close to Shannon’s neighborhood, but Frank, Sana, Wyatt and Ethan rode the tornado out in his old brown truck…at that unforgettable intersection of 26th and Shifferdecker.

How they drove away from that with only a minor cut to Ethan’s head (from a broken window in the truck), and a banged up truck, is truly the workings of our God. He has bigger plans for those 4 people in that truck that evening.
So many lives were forever changed in a matter of moments, so many lives lost and injured. Frank drove into Shannon and Barrett’s neighborhood by driving over debris, trees, etc. until he arrived at Shannon’s house where that whole family had emerged from the basement and were prayerfully waiting their arrival.

Shannon had known how close he was and had left the garage door open for them to drive up into and make it into the house. She had tried to wait it out but it was too late and she had to run to the basement and be with everyone else.

She lost it and so did Wyatt and Ethan when Frank and Sana arrived at Shannon’s house after the tornado. The boys sobbed and sobbed and Frank had no expression, gray in color. Sana commented several times on how well the boys did and kept telling Shannon that they were great, everyone was okay.
So many miracles and so many reasons to be thankful for that evening. Your house and your “stuff” can always be replaced. Your family and your friends cannot. We were amazingly lucky that evening and God had his hands over every one of us. We are forever changed, and for the better.

I will never forget those moments of not knowing and that sickening feeling of “what if”. I am just so very thankful everyday for every moment that I have with my children and family because we don’t know what the next day will bring. God is so good!


Toni said...

Thank you so much, Kim, for sharing your story. I'm so happy that your family made it through safe and sound. I couldn't help but get teary as well while reading. You detailed everything so well.

Jennifer Huff said...

I am completely bawling at this point reading your story. I am so thankful that all of your family are ok. I can't imagine how fearful you were without your children with you. I reacted the same way as you did=- I couldn't cry.. was just in shock looking around. You're right- no one will ever be the same. Thank you for putting this into words.

Jen G. said...

Thank you for sharing. Very powerful stuff. God Bless you guys.