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Joplin Children Share Memories of Tornado

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Posted: Jul 18, 2011 2:15 PM

Updated: Mar 20, 2012 7:53 AM

JOPLIN, Mo. - Weeks after surviving a Category 5 tornado, 11-year-old Corbin still has trouble sleeping.

“I stay up till two in the morning,” he says. Corbin then describes a dream he has. In it, he’s in a tornado spinning and watching people cry.

Crying is part of Corbin’s memories of May 22, when the tornado hit Joplin, Missouri.

“My dad's sitting on the toilet crying. My grandma is sitting on the ground with a pillow over her head saying, ‘Jesus.’ My mom is sitting down in the bathtub crying. My baby brother is sitting in the bathtub not knowing what to do, and I'm sitting in the bathtub with a pillow just closing my eyes,” he tells us.

The 11-year-old is one of several children who spoke with CHANNEL 5 NEWS reporter Farrah Fazal and photojournalist Mike Ortiz about surviving the tornado.

“The scariest part was you could hear all the windows shattering,” says 10-year-old Jillian. “You could hear everything fly.”

Eleven-year-old Kayli remembers the tornado hitting their neighbor’s home first.
“You could hear them screaming,” she says. “It was really scary. We started to cry. Then it hit us.”

“The pressure changed,” recalls 17-year-old Gareth. “Our ears were starting to pop.”

Ten-year-old Levi was in Wal-Mart when the tornado hit.

“I seen couple people with blood running down their face and stuff,” he says. “My stepmom broke her back, because the TV flew and hit her.”

Levi described a person that appeared to be passed out and another person that was covered.

“This person was covered up, but not all the way. A big beam was on top of him. It was scary to look at,” he says.

Levi, Kayli, Jillian, Corbin, Kayden, Emma and Gareth are changed children.

“One of my friends, both his parents got killed in the storm,” says Gareth.

Jillian tells us a girl in fourth grade and the girl’s brother died. “She was really nice and so sweet to everybody,” she adds.

“You question - Where were they? What was their story? You can’t ask that. They're not here.”

Kayli remembers looking at her grandmother’s apartment building. “It was just flat and we didn’t think my nana made it,” she says.

Levi tells us, “It kinda looked like war just happened in Joplin, and it was horrible.”

“You're driving through the neighborhoods. You don’t know what street it is. You used to see the landmarks,” explains Gareth. “The yellow house was Florida. There is no yellow house anymore.”

The children of Joplin are now struggling to find their way past their broken lives. The storm shattered their sense of security.

Their homes, which was once a haven, are now gone. The group we met are now either staying in hotels or their parents found new houses.

“All our stuff was in this ginormous pile,” says 10-year-old Kayden.

“What I miss the most is my room. But my mom lost everything she bought in there. She lost her living room. And she was so upset, because she worked all her life to get that money to get that stuff in the house.”

Kayli says, “It’s really hard to deal with it - imagine your past and realizing what’s going to be different in the future.”

However, the children we spoke with are doing amazingly well. They seem resilient. They have moments of happiness and moments of sadness. They try not to talk about the tornado much. It’s part of getting back to what they used to know.

They also understand they can't go back to the life they knew before the tornado.

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