Joplin Couple Shares Story As They Salvage Belongings

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JOPLIN - Four days after the devastating tornado, people are seeing their homes for the first time since Sunday night.

The once quiet streets since after the storm turned busy Wednesday when officials started letting families back into the destructed areas. Families stood upon the rubble digging through debris and salvaging what was left of their belongings. Many found things that weren't theirs nestled among their own personal items.

Joplin resident Dustin Orange and his wife shared their story with KOMU as they dug through Orange's grandfather's destroyed home.

Here is Dustin's story in his own words:

"This is my grandfather's place and I grew up in Texas until I was three. I've lived here ever since. All I can remember is this house. It's very important to me. My mother's ashes are in there somewhere. Standing in there I'm just like ‘mom, come on, just give me a sign. Show me something, where are you at?' But she could be a thousand miles away. My mother always wanted to go out with a bang anyways. I guess this is one way to do it.

[After the tornado] I was on foot. I ran from 41st and Joplin to here (West 26th Street). At some points and time I was jumping power lines. I had to walk through traffic because that was the only way to get through; jumping power lines, ducking power lines. When I got down here people were saying the gas lines were about to explode and they started panicking and running.

To be honest, at first it was a joke to me. I heard the sirens; I was like maybe they were testing them. I had no idea. I didn't have TV, nothing. Soon as the storm stopped I ran as fast as I could here. I had no idea where my grandparents were at first. First thing I jumped in there and started digging. Luckily I found the guy that took him up the road. That was just the biggest relief knowing that everyone was safe you know? Material can all be replaced, but lives they can't be.

My grandpa has a broken foot and if my uncle hadn't been here my grandfather probably wouldn't have made it. That van was on top of them in their basement. My uncle Donnie pulled him out from under that car and they were both okay. I can't believe they survived it. [Grandfather] he's the most important person in my life and I don't know what I would do without him. He's held our family together and he's the rock you know? He's the only one to keep us going.

This is a real blessing you know, that I hope God can use this for the way it needs to be used and maybe open some eyes here. I've seen this all over the world you know, the tsunami and Alabama. You never honestly think it's going to hit you and when it does you can't fathom any thought. You just can't. Once I realized how bad it was, it just blew my mind. It was just phenomenal. I've never seen anything like this in my life. It looks like a bomb just went off.

They had two Chihuahuas and they're okay, so they're going to be staying at our place for a little while.

We found some checkbooks, some pictures, some of my Uncle Donnie's pictures from the late 80's, my grandfather's navy jacket, all their important documents they were able to find and they were completely intact. I was hoping to find their safe because I know my grandfather can't find his birth certificate or social security and nothing like that.

This first time I came here there was already people digging through it. I walked to the hospital and trying to find some other people and I saw this guy shining his cell phone light through trucks that were parked there trying to get a car. I guess it just brings out the best in some people and the very worst in others.

[Will only continue searching if] hopefully if the rain lets us, there is no sense in getting soaked over trash, there's nothing left. It's just all about time, it's going to take a lot of time. Just as long as everybody's safe, that's all we can hope for and just keep praying for everyone else..."

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