Three Monettans found themselves in the middle of the May 22 tornado. One family, Daniel Hoyt, Monett High School Class of 1996, and his wife Megan (Bounous) Hoyt, Monett High School Class of 1997, lived at the east end of the storm, near where the tornado touched down. Dusty Reed, Monett High School Class of 2005, lived at the west end, near the end of the tornado's destructive path.
Their stories are typical of the terror experienced by victims of the storm.
"We spent the day putting together a trampoline in the back yard," Daniel said. "We were driving to get pizza when we heard the sirens. We went back to the house until the all clear sounded."
The family went down to the basement and turned on the TV out of habit. Initial reports had the storm going north of the Hoyts by a few miles so they did not feel particularly concerned.
"The lights flickered," Daniel recalled. "I went up to get flashlights, and when I looked out the window, I saw the trees bending more than I had ever seen. I then thought more seriously about this storm."
Daniel ran back downstairs about 15 seconds before the storm hit.
"We got in a corner under the stairs and heard the classic freight train sound, which is a cliche but completely descriptive of what it (a tornado) sounds like," Daniel said. "We heard loud crashes and felt the house shaking like an earthquake. It continued storming severely for about two minutes, an incredibly long two minutes."
Daniel went upstairs after the storm had subsided and met their 150-pound bull mastiff, who could not go down stairs, on the other side of the door. The dog had a small laceration on its side.
"I saw there was no roof on the house," Daniel said. "I peeked around the corner and saw two upstairs bedrooms were gone from the house. I found our other dog, a beagle, who was also okay, and carried it downstairs. I broke into a smile. I realized a real tornado had totally destroyed our home, and we had just lived through it."
The children were frightened for several minutes, Daniel said, but calmed down quickly. Megan called her parents, Joe and Billie Bounous, in Monett, to let them know the family was all right. A few minutes later, the young couple from next door came over with their two children, forced from their home by a gas leak. The two families stayed in the basement together, the children comforted by having other children nearby. The Hoyts' son fell asleep after 10 minutes, exhausted from the experience.
After about two hours, some friends walked onto the property and asked the Hoyts to go to their home about a mile and a half away. The Hoyts borrowed a car from the neighbors, finding both of their cars had been destroyed.
"When we got outside, we could see about a 600-yard path of homes in the neighborhood had been destroyed, going east over and down the hill, directly toward St. John's Hospital," Daniel said. "It really seemed to just spread out from our neighborhood."
Daniel left his family at 11 p.m. to go to Freeman Hospital, with which his practice is affiliated. He volunteered his help addressing a number of urological injuries that came into the emergency room, helped with surgeries and in the intensive care unit until around 4 a.m. Hoyt said hundreds of medical personnel, including doctors from St. John's and others from out of town, showed up on their own to work at Freeman that night, a very gratifying display of support.
On Monday the Hoyts sent their children to be with their grandparents. Daniel's brothers came to Joplin and helped load as much as possible in a truck, Rain that started late in the morning on Monday left everything soaked by the end of the day.
Two of the four urologists in Daniel's practice lost their homes. Daniel expected to return to work next week. He said everyone he has talked to had a harrowing story to tell. The response he has received from Monettans around the nation through email and phone calls has been "pretty amazing."
Dusty Reed lived at the Plaza Apartments, east of Rangeline Road and north of 20th Street, the area that received the most punishing brunt of the tornado. Dusty and roommates, Codi and Wooly, were sitting in their apartment watching TV when the first siren went off. They switched on the weather radio, which alerted them of the potential danger.
"Codi said we should go to the clubhouse and wait in the bathrooms there," Dusty recalled. "When the actual tornado hit, we were in the bathroom. We could hear everything breaking outside and hear things banging against the wall. I was trying to hold the door shut because the wind was forcing it open, but the door actually lifted up into the air and out of my hand.
"I don't know if it was the wind that knocked me down on all fours or the wall that landed on us, but I ended up pinned on my hands and knees. There was a few of us under the wall, including my roommates," Dusty continued.
All of the group was screaming in the dark, confined space. Dusty got them to stop and asked anyone who could move to crawl toward the gaps where they could see light.
"Once they were out, a few of them had to lift (the wall) so I could get out," Dusty said. "I immediately found Wooly; he had crawled out. I asked him where Codi was, and he said she was still under there. There was two other girls as well as Codi who couldn't move because another section of the wall had landed on them. We managed to lift it up and get them out."
Help came in response to yells from Dusty's group. They were able to move sections of the wall so that the entire group could escape.
"The first thing I noticed was the three apartment buildings around the pool and how all the third floors had been ripped up or were completely gone," Dusty said. "All the buildings looked like they had gone through a bombing, kind of how buildings look in World War II photos."
At some point after getting out, Dusty said his back felt like it was on fire. At that point, he found he was bruised along his waist and had cuts along his back and side.
"I am still finding little cut all over my body though now and then," Dusty said.
"It was terrifying and, yes, I have a fear of storms now, but it wasn't the apocalypse," Dusty said. "When I first started actually looking, nothing was recognizable. Without the landmarks to point things out to me, I had to think about what had originally been where I was looking.
"The strangest thing, though, was how far into the distance I could see. I could see what felt like miles and miles of destruction. Nothing I have ever experienced could have prepared me for that moment."
The first order of business was to get Codi, who suffered a broken arm, to the hospital. They got a ride from a man over to Missouri Southern State University, where someone thought a shelter had been established. They found one of Dusty's college friends, Kayla, who drove the trio to Dusty's brothers' home a few blocks away. They subsequently went to Memorial Hall, where medical aid was available.
"We dropped off Codi and Wooly, then Kayla and I went back towards where the tornado hit so we could look for our friend, Steve," Dusty said. "Looking for him, we ended up walking from Seventh Street all the way to 23rd, where he lived. We passed so many people and saw so much destruction, all we could was look and keep walking."
Dusty's immediate concern was for the welfare of his tight-knit group. His brothers alerted other family members that he was all right. Dusty said he reached Kayla and other friends first by text messaging, though his cell phone otherwise did not begin working until the next day.
Dusty slept at the home of his friend, Jes, a nursing student, who treated his back injuries. He has continued to stay in her basement, which is fully furnished. On Monday, Dusty and his friends salvaged some of their things, mostly electronics and clothes. On Tuesday he was reunited with Codi, whose arm was now in a splint, and Wooly, who was now bandaged up. Dusty was back at his job yesterday in the computer department at the Joplin Public Library.
"I don't know how the experience has changed me yet, it's still too soon to know," Dusty said. "What I do know is bad things happen. People try to give them reasons to feel better or to make them manageable. Truth is, though, they just happen.
"We need to simply help one another, be there for each other, do what we feel we have to, and move on.
"We shouldn't forget this, though," Dusty added. "That would be a great disrespect to all those who lost their lives."