The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 22, 2012

Freeman event honors health care workers, others for heroism following tornado

Hospital unveils plans for Beacon of Hope memorial

Eyes teared up Tuesday morning when Malachi Murdock and his mother, Susan, recounted what happened to them on May 22, 2011.

Murdock had just finished a performance of “I Remember Mama” at the Stained Glass Theatre, 1318 W. 26th St., when the tornado struck. Hours would pass before his mother would know where he was and whether he was still alive.

Murdock was among the hundreds of people who received medical care at Freeman Health System just after the storm.

“The doctors and nurses had me stabilized within minutes,” the 17-year-old said. “The response the doctors and nurses gave that night has caused an overwhelming feeling of respect to form in me.”

Shortly after sunrise Tuesday, a service to remember what happened that night and to honor the survivors and those who lost their lives was held on a parking lot overlooking the hospital’s emergency room. Several hundred people attended, including Gov. Jay Nixon and his wife, Georganne.

“The staff in surgery, in recovery and in therapy were all instrumental in causing me to be where I am today — a healthy, vibrant young man who knows where he was, where he’s at, where he’s going, and who has gotten him here,” Murdock said.

His mother recalled traveling from their home in Diamond to find her son. She said that when she found his friends, she could tell from their faces that her son was in real trouble.

“A father came up to me: ‘Malachi is strong. He’s strong,’” she said. “You could tell by the look on their faces that Malachi had not made it.”

She said that when she got to the emergency room at Freeman Hospital West, “You could smell the blood. It was a war zone. We thought he had died.”

Six hours later, her son was identified in the emergency room.

“He looked like an old man. He was swollen and disfigured,” his mother said. “I remember a nurse, Anna Johnson, reassuring me: ‘He’s stable. He’s stable.’”

The “Morning Has Broken” service recognized more than a dozen groups that played key roles that night saving lives, including first responders, health care workers and volunteers who helped their neighbors. Near the conclusion of the service, red and green lanterns inflated with balloons were released into the sky.

Electrical generators illuminated Freeman Hospital West the night of the tornado in what otherwise was a sea of darkness. As many looked back on that night, Freeman CEO Paula Baker said the hospital was a like a “beacon of hope” for those affected by the storm.

With assistance from the Murdocks, she unveiled a rendering for a Beacon of Hope memorial that will be constructed near the West 32nd Street entrance to Freeman West. It will honor victims of the storm and the health care workers who tried to save them.

Malachi Murdock said he owes his life to the combined efforts of strangers, friends, and doctors and nurses at Freeman.

“The selflessness and generosity, the love and care that was shown that day defined us as a city,” he said. “We are Joplin — let us never forget the magnitude of that statement. Let us never forget what defines us.”

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