Lexi Prater probably doesn’t want this column to run today.
I didn’t talk to Lexi for this column; I talked to her mother, Carey Prater. Carey is the one who told me that Lexi likely would be embarrassed by this column. Carey told me that Lexi doesn’t think what she did was a big deal, and that — frankly — she is tired of hearing about the whole thing.
I can see that.
But, the thing is, Carey and her husband, Tim, think what their daughter did was a big deal.
“I truly believe that without her (Lexi), that today all four of us would not be alive,” Carey said.
What Lexi did was insist her family leave their house located at 20th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, shortly before the May 22, 2011, tornado struck. The Prater’s home did not have a basement and Lexi was adamant that the family go to her grandparents home that did have a basement.
The then 8-year-old Lexi grabbed her dog, her guinea pig and her Girl Scout sash, put them by the door and basically said: “We’re leaving.”
Normally a very laid-back child, Carey said, Lexi would not take “no” for an answer from her parents.
“I finally said ‘OK, we’re leaving’ just to give us some peace and quiet, and when we got to the car and put our seat belts on, the first sirens went off,” Carey said.
Lexi, her 4-year-old sister, Reese, Carey and Tim rode out the storm in a bathroom in Lexi’s grandparents home. That house was damaged but was not destroyed. The same couldn’t be said for the Prater’s home. When the family was able to return to their neighborhood, they discovered that their home had been destroyed. No part of the structure survived the storm.
To this day, Lexi can’t explain what prompted her to insist that the family leave its home, Carey said.
“She will just say ‘It was a storm’ and that you need to be safe when there are storms,” Carey said. “She also says that she is no hero and doesn’t understand why people are making a big deal about this. But she still never said what possessed her to be so adamant about it.”
In March of this year, Lexi was one of seven people honored by the American Red Cross as “Everyday Heroes” for her actions on May 22, 2011. This Saturday, representatives with the Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland will drop by Camp Mintahama where Lexi’s Girl Scout Troop 26271 will be taking part in a weekend Scout camp.
The reason the Girl Scout representatives are coming to the camp is to present Lexi with the Bronze Cross award. The Bronze Cross is one of the Girl Scouts’ highest honors and is given to a Girl Scout who saves or attempts to save a life. Award recipients must show special character and maturity in extreme situations.
I think we can all agree that Lexi easily meets the award criteria.
By the way, Carey reminded me that, in 2007, I wrote a column about Lexi who was then 4 years old. Lexi had learned, through her church, about a fundraiser known as the Crop Walk. The idea was to raise money to combat world hungry. When Lexi heard about the Crop Walk, she decided that she had to help. So, pretty much by sheer will and the force of personality, Lexi raised $120. One of the people who gave $20 to Lexi said to her great-grandmother: “How can you say ‘no’ to a 4-year-old?”
Thankfully, on May 22, 2011, Carey and Tim Prater, also had trouble saying “no” to Lexi.
Lexi Prater probably doesn’t want this column to run today.
- May 2011 Joplin tornado
Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment
After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”
- SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary
Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog
Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.
VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum
National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.
Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion
The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.
FEMA official recognized by city
A retiring official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who directed much of that agency’s response to Joplin’s 2011 tornado was recognized Friday by the city of Joplin. Richard Serino, the deputy administrator of FEMA, was presented a proclamation by Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean during his last visit to Joplin before he retires on Jan. 23.
Two Joplin men sentenced to two years for tornado fraud
Two Joplin men convicted in separate incidents of disaster fraud related to the May 22, 2011, tornado on Monday were sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution. Andy Eric Brownlee, 32, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes. to pay $2,750 in restitution, and Leslie Lynn Williams, 54, was ordered to pay $1,196 in restitution.
Tornado fund board hears grant requests
Trustees of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund heard proposals Tuesday from 11 organizations for grant funding. The board is to decide how to spend about $225,000 remaining in the fund in what may be the final round of grants. The fund was established shortly after the 2011 tornado to receive donations from those who wanted to give direct aid to Joplin for recovery.
Joplin community publishes book of tornado experiences
Leaders in the Joplin community have published a collection of stories about the 2011 tornado and the recovery efforts that followed. First-hand accounts for the book, titled “Joplin Pays It Forward,” were written by city and school leaders; officials from health care centers and public utility companies; leaders in the business and media communities; representatives of churches and nonprofit organizations; and individuals with federal, state and local disaster relief groups and agencies.
New fire stations being readied for opening
After 2 1/2 years in temporary quarters as a result of the 2011 Joplin tornado, firefighter crews are moving into newly built replacement stations ahead of schedule. Firefighters last week began preparing a new Station No. 2 at 2825 W. Junge Blvd. for occupancy. It replaces a station at 2216 S. Maiden Lane that was destroyed in the tornado.
- More May 2011 Joplin tornado Headlines
- Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment