The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Columns

July 28, 2011

Carol Stark: We’ll take all the miracles we can get

— Do you believe in miracles? Before you answer, let me rephrase that. Do you believe in karma, fate, divine intervention or Lady Luck?

We each have our own way of putting our heads around events that defy the odds. Call them whatever you want, but the accounts of many of the survivors of the May 22 tornado are nothing but downright miraculous. These stories have left us all humbled and still, two months after the tornado, asking: “How did that happen?”

It was the premise we started with for today’s collection of stories — “22 Miracles in May” — that begins on Page 1 of our paper.

When I told reporter Emily Younker what I wanted to do, she didn’t bat an eye. We already had reported the stories of Lavern the cat that was buried for 16 days, and the remarkable transformation of the late Ed Ash’s rain-soaked, moldy Bible. We counted both of them as inspirations.

We had talked to a 90-year-old woman who has survived not one, but two EF-5 tornadoes. We had met the young girl who was impaled by a piece of angle iron that had pierced the roof of the truck, entered her shoulder, exited out her flank and entered the truck seat. Six weeks later, she was well enough to go swimming.

Impossible? No, true.

For two months, survivors have been bringing us their stories. Many we have published, but some we’ve saved for today’s special report.

One such story came from Steve Goebel, a regular Globe letter writer, who found himself buried alive under the debris.

“I knew I wouldn’t live long under that weight,” he said. “Everyone was going to be checked after because they’re going to look at their own houses first, and you looked at mine and there was nothing left of it. You look at it and you wouldn’t believe that a person could live there, and people are going to look for the living first and look for the dead later. I knew very likely I’d die there before anybody would come.”

But, he didn’t. And, I look forward to getting letters from Steve for many years to come.

Some of today’s miracles are testaments to the human spirit. You’ll read about doctors who were miracle-makers themselves that night.

You’ll cry at the happy endings. I certainly did when I read about Pete Anastosopolos and his agonizing search for his 12-year-old daughter, Zoe.

There are stories about people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but somehow managed to live. Ashley Monroe is one of those miracles. She rode out the storm on the Wal-Mart parking lot in a Volkswagen Jetta.

It sounds almost like a movie script, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s why they call it human drama.

Today we bring you 22 stories — 22 miracles if you will — about your friends and neighbors. Please know that there are hundreds more stories out there just as incredible.

Just as we mourned with you the loss of life, today, we celebrate the lives of those who are still with us.

And, we’ll take all the miracles we can get.  

Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or e-mail cstark@joplinglobe.com.

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Tornado: Columns