Valley Center Family Survives Joplin Tornado, Helps The Injured

By: Alicia Myers Email
By: Alicia Myers Email

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Monday, May 23, 2011

About 2,000 buildings were damaged in Joplin, including St. Johns Regional Medical Center. That's where a Valley Center family rode out the storm.

"I had just let my son and my mom off to go see my dad, who was in intensive care at St. Johns, and was getting gas and was on the way back, and I heard that freight train sound," said Sandy Elliott, Valley Center.

At that moment, Sandy and her family knew a tornado was headed their way.

What they didn't know at that moment, was the fact they would end up surviving one of the worst tornadoes in Missouri history.

"I had no idea it would be that bad. I thought maybe worst, the lights would flicker twice and it would be gone," said Jon Elliott, Sandy's son.

Jon and his grandmother were stuck in a stairwell on the 7th floor of the medical center when the tornado hit.

"You could hear the glass go, and then, all the water came into the room, and it just sounded like there was a flood," said Jon.

Sandy had pulled into a bank drive-thru.

"I waited it out there, and then tried to make my way out to the hospital," said Sandy.

When she reached the hospital, devastation was all she saw.

"There was no front. There was no entrance. Trees were down everywhere. I was thinking, how am I even going to get in there to check on them?" said Sandy.

Instead, instincts kicked in.

An RN in the Valley Center school district, Sandy went to work, helping others.

"Some of them were cold, they were dripping blood. One man was cut on his forehead," said Sandy.

Floors above, her son Jon helped patients down the stairs.

"We were walking through the halls, and you could hear people saying, 'Dead guy here, watch out,' and stuff like that," said Jon.

Finally re-uniting with one another, the Elliott family said they hoped each other was okay, but didn't have time to worry.

"There were so many people around me that were so needy, that it was pretty easy to just jump in, and adrenaline kicked in, and I just tried to take care of those people, and tried to help those people," said Sandy.

Sandy's father was okay.

He was taken in the back of a pick-up truck to Freeman hospital across town.

The family says living through the Joplin tornado has changed their lives forever.

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