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Kim Albrecht’s Story

May 22, 2011 @ 5:41 p.m. : My tornado story

by Kim Albrecht

May 22, 2011 began as any other day in my life. Got up, went to work, all life as usual. I was supposed to be off at work at 4:00 p.m., but a co-worker was unable to make it in, so I was working a double until midnight. With the change in plans, my two daughters and 3 year old son decided to go to my parent’s home in Duenweg to work on the garden. That left my husband and 2 of  my sons at home. Since I was working a double, my husband brought me a coke to work at 5:00 p.m.  We watched the clouds start to form, and my husband and I discussed with my co-worker and friend, Jacob whether or not he should stay with us and ride out the storm, or go home… After all, tornado sirens are common for us, and nothing seemed different than a typical Mid-West storm. The first sirens sounded at 5:11 p.m.  O.K. we thought… Radar picked up a funnel cloud somewhere.. Then they stopped. Looking outside, something seemed off. So about 5:15 p.m. I had a pressing urge for my husband to get home with our children.. Can’t explain why, but it was a strong urge for him to go… My friend Jacob and I discussed how Joplin always lucks out and misses the tornados ! About 5:17 the sirens sounded again.. This is unusual for us, and I thought it was a bit strange. I called my husband, and he was on the road on the way home. He was telling me how the hail and rain was so heavy he could barely see.. I said to him: “get home.. the boys are there alone”. He texted me at 5:29 saying he made it home, and was going to go upstairs and put on some dry clothes. He changed and went back down stairs. Zachary ( my 19 year old ) was sitting in the living room watching t.v. Dakota ( my 17 year old ) was in the game room playing a video game… My husband had an “odd feeling” as he described it to me and went to look out the front window. This is when he saw a tree fly by him. Not a branch, nor a twig, or even a small tree.. But a big, full size tree. He yelled at the boys to go to the bathroom. Our bathroom downstairs was a half bath ( small, barely big enough for one person ).  Dakota made it in first, then Zachary, and before my husband made it in, the back walls of our home blew off.. He could not see the boys because of the rain and debris.. He stuck his arms out until he could feel both boys. He heard them scream, but didn’t know if it was out of fear, or because they were hurt. The front walls went, then the roof… The back wall of the bathroom went… At this point, my husband confessed to me he thought the three of them were going to die… He felt the inside walls of the bathroom start to lean in, and he held on and prayed…

   My husband goes on to say that  about this time the wind had stopped.. The rain had lightened up, and he looked up and then around and could only see outside. He immediately asked our sons if they were o.k., to which they responded “yes, we think so”. They were all 3 bleeding ( thankfully only minor wounds )…  My husband was trying to figure out how he was going to get them out of the rubble, when a dog came running to them. They hugged the dog, trying to warm her up. My husband immediately thought of our elderly neighbor.. He climbed over the rubble and helped the boys get out. ( None of them had shoes on and were soaking wet ).  He told the boys to look around and find any shoes they could find ( my husband had already stepped on a nail).  They found some shoes ( they didn’t match, and they didn’t fit, but at least they had something on their feet )…  The three of them crawled over the rubble of what used to be our home and made it completely outside. He went to the neighbor and she was buried in debris covering her car. ( She had gotten inside her car in the garage when the sirens sounded ). He moved debris and got her door open and lifted her up out of her car…  One neighbor’s house had a little bit of the roof left and this is where anyone close was able to go to get out of the rain. My husband tried calling my cell and work and could not get through. He finally was able to reach my mom and dad on their landline, and told them the house was gone, to which my mom replied: “That’s not funny”. He told her he wasn’t kidding. My phones at work were ringing off the hook with people calling asking if we were o.k. There was no T.V. or internet service, so my co-worker and I were oblivious to the damage only a mile away. My husband finally made it through to tell me that the house was gone, we had lost everything, and the boys were hurt… Then the phone went dead. I didn’t know how bad they were hurt, if they were trapped, or what was going on. My daughter called from my mom’s landline to my work phone. I heard tears and a shaky voice telling me that we lost our house. She then told me that her and my dad was going to try and get to my husband and the boys. I was frantic.  My dad tried for almost an hour to get through to our home. He was unable to do so.. I waited for someone to come and replace me at work. A co-worker came in after about an hour or so ( the traffic and roads made travel near impossible). I told people the following few days that she drove for 3 or 4 hours just to get to work so I could leave ( believe me it seemed that long ), and she was my hero for making it possible for me to leave to find my family.  At this point, I still didn’t know how bad my boys were hurt, so my co-worker had her daughter drive me to my mom’s house. When we arrived, my husband walked out the front door.. I have never been so glad to see him and the boys in my life ! They had walked from our home almost 2.5 miles to get to where my dad could pick them up. My husband and boys don’t talk about their walk much, only to say they passed things along the way, they hope to never see or hear again. When I finally reached my parent’s home about 9:00 p.m. reality set in… We had no home.. Where were we going to sleep? We had no clothes, no shoes, no toothbrushes, nothing… I also learned that we lost our vehicles in the tornado as well. I was in shock and disbelief.. How could everything we worked so hard for, for so long, just be gone…

   Monday we tried to get to our home to see if we could salvage any items. We were turned away by authorities and denied access to our home. At this point, they were still trying to find the large number of people unaccounted for… We went again Tuesday, and after meeting the same obstacles, we found a way to “sneak in to our home” by taking some back roads. The moment I saw what used to be our home, our vehicles, our personal belongings, our life… I stood in the middle of the debris filled road, and cried…  I was overcome with praises to God that my family had survived the monster that destroyed a large portion of my hometown. I was also overcome with sadness and fear. The loss of our livelihood, the tangible items I couldn’t replace like pictures, my children’s school work and report cards.  Special items that belonged to loved ones that had passed, and gifts given to us by people we care about.. Everything was gone..

[meteor_slideshow][/meteor_slideshow]   We thought we had lost our cat, but to our delight she was found in the rubble alive and unhurt.. We still aren’t sure how she survived or where she was for 2 days, but we had her back ! About a week after the tornado, I realized the storage unit we had rented on 20th street was destroyed as well. The china dishes that used to belong to my grandmother, the special Christmas ornaments, toys that my children had.. Mementos of our lives that no longer existed…

   We ended up having to stay in 2 different places. With 7 of us, we are a big group to just barge in on someone ! My husband and I took the two older boys and went to stay at his mom’s home in Carthage. My two daughters and our youngest son stayed at my mom’s home in Duenweg.. We had no home, and now my family was split up 20 miles apart. This would go on for 5 weeks, and then we found a home to rent. We had to make some adjustments to make it work for us, but we did it ! The generosity of friends, family, and strangers have enabled us to begin replacing items of necessity we had lost.. I know the rest will come over time.. Such a strange turn of events happened that day before the tornado ever hit. (I was stuck at work, so because I was gone, part of my children were not in the path of the storm, God told me to have my husband leave my work and go home, God had my husband look outside when he did)  God wouldn’t have made the strange turn of events happen the way He did, without reason, if He didn’t have something truly amazing in store for us.. 

    I have seen God’s love in the countless number of people that have came to help my hometown of Joplin, Missouri.. I have seen God’s love in the incredible amount of people that survived this monster tornado because they were in the one place in their house that didn’t collapse or blow away. I have seen God’s love in the countless number of testimonies given in honor of those that didn’t survive the tornado. How they saved other lives, how they were heroes… And finally, I see God’s love in the faces of my children and how they have triumphed through tragedy, and how my family is closer and stronger than it has ever been…