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
Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace
After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.
- SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary
Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery
Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.
New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing
Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”
Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength
Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’
Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns
Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.
Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work
The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.
Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone
Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.
Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale
The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.
- More May 2011 Joplin tornado Headlines
- Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace