Thursday, May 26, 2011

Four Minutes Of Hell: Relief Society Group Rode Out Joplin Tornado In LDS Stake Center; Joplin Stake President Creed Jones Interviewed By CNN

Update October 15th, 2012: On September 29th, the new stake center was finished and rededicated; updated post HERE.

There was a rumor posted on a discussion board that there was a Fireside taking place inside the stake center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Joplin, MO when the tornado struck, but I attached little significance to it at the time because it was fourth-hand. You know, a friend of a friend of a friend communicated the information, that sort of thing.

It turns out the rumor was partially true, only it was a Relief Society group. Eight people had assembled for a Relief Society meeting, and everything was proceeding on track until the tornado sirens went off. What took place thereafter can be best described as "four minutes of hell", thankfully, all eight emerged relatively unscathed. KSL Channel 5 news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of

When one of the men present warned of the tornado's approach, all eight persons piled into the women's restroom; a seven-year old girl was at the bottom of the pile. Then came the pressure, the noise, and the shredding of metal.

Notable Quotes:

-- "You could hear this cracking, and explosion after explosion; and there were so many sounds you can't even describe it...But it wasn't just the hearing it, you could feel it. Because it just went right through your body."

-- "It was like a thousand timpanis being beat, it was like a thousand trumpets blowing."

-- "We were very blessed. We were very fortunate...We felt hands protecting us — all of us felt that."

After four long minutes, the tornado moved on. Stunned, all those present realized they had survived. The experience has caused the survivors to begin reevaluating their mission, purpose and outlook on life. The Deseret News reported about another LDS member, Carmen Borup, who survived the tornado while sitting in her car. She was on her way home after picking up her son Christopher when the tornado hit, and witnessed the indiscriminately selective powers of the tornado, surviving while the tree beside her car was de-barked. She then made her way to the stake center and took photos, some of which were posted in an earlier DN article.

Creed R. Jones, Joplin stake president, was also interviewed on CNN about his tornado experience, having left the graduation with his family in several vehicles separated by the storm. His home was one of the dozen LDS houses destroyed by the tornado. CNN video embedded below:

The displaced LDS congregants will be attending church at nearby wards in Neosho and Carthage. The latest numbers as of May 25th indicate 125 dead and over 900 injured. The Springfield News-Leader has published a list of 232 people still unaccounted for as of May 26th. Meanwhile, Joplin is now beginning to transition from the rescue phase into the recovery phase; despite the fact that five of its schools were destroyed and two more heavily damaged, the Joplin School District pledges to begin classes on time at the August 17th start date. Unfortunately, not everyone coming to Joplin from out of town wants to help in the recovery. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church plan to come and picket on Sunday May 29th when President Barack Obama will visit the city and attend a memorial service for the deceased victims. Those looking to make donations can do so on the Red Cross website; additional options specified on the website.


Shawz Family said...

That rumor you mention is very interesting, because it came directly from the Official World Disaster Report for May 23 from Welfare Services. In that report among many other things, it reads:
The Joplin stake center has been destroyed. A young single adult group who was meeting in the building at the time took refuge in the baptismal font and escaped injury.

It is interesting to see that even as well run an organization as ours can provide information that isn't completely accurate soon following disasters. This, however, is a common theme, misinformation or miscommunication will happen everywhere, we need to be slower to draw conclusions, as you state, however, I don't fault those who believed a report that came from Church sources.

Jack Mormon said...

I was unaware that it originated with Welfare Services. The one place I saw it was on a discussion board, probably Cougarboard. But because it was sourced so ambiguously, I decided to not re-publish it at the time.

Interesting that KSL referred to it as a Relief Society meeting rather than a Young Single Adult meeting. Considering the gravity of the situation, I'm not faulting anyone. I'm just grateful I haven't had to go through a tornado strike.

Anonymous said...

My source: Joplin female LDS single adult that was supposed to be at the fireside that night. Told to me in person six days later.

Yes, there was to be a singles fireside that evening. The people meeting were not a Relief Society group, rather a single adult committee planning upcoming events. There were both men and women and they took refuge in the separate men's and women's restrooms that lead out to the font. The font itself and the doors to the font were locked like they normally are when there's not a baptism going on. One of the guys was hit in the head by debris but from what this woman said it sounded like his injury was minor.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize there was a video. That's the guy I guess. :D I couldn't tell if he had stitches or not. Sounds like they were pretty lucky.