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Wellington family on Joplin tornado video

May 24, 2011|By Rebecca Gannon | KWCH 12 Eyewitness News

(WICHITA, Kan.) — The video has now been seen - or at least heard - by more than 2,000,000 people on youtube.com.  In it, about 20 people crowd into a gas station in Joplin as a tornado passes overhead.  

Among those 20 people are three Wellington residents; the Ward children -- Hannah, 17, Jonah, 15, and Abigail, 7.  They were visiting their father, and left his apartment to seek shelter at their Uncle's home, 20 minutes away.  

They never made it.  As they turned through a round-about, the rain made it too difficult to see.  Their father chose to swing back around, and pull up to a gas station.  That was the same gas station someone was recording video with their cell phone.

"You hear, on the video, some knocking," said Jonah.  "That's us."  He continued, "what are we going to do?  The gas station's locked, my Dad's pounding on the door.  Finally the store clerk, his name was Rueben, he came, he unlocked the door."

Just moments after Hannah, Jonah, and Abigail Ward and their father made it inside that dark gas station, the video records the sound of shattering glass.

The store front shatters, glass flies everywhere, and everyone runs to the storage cooler.  For the next twenty minutes, everyone, including the Wards, huddled together.

"It was kind of comforting," said 7 year old Abigail, about being there with her siblings and father.  "Because God saved us."
 
"Right after the tornado moved on, Jonah got his phone out, and he called Mom," explained Hannah, the oldest.  "He said we're sitting in a freezer, we just got done with a tornado, everyone's alright."

"As soon as I hung up the phone," said their Mother and Wellington resident Amy,"I said the words out loud - 'My kids were in a tornado' - and it was just a flood; how close I came to losing not one, but all three of them at once."

The Ward's father lost his car (it was sitting outside the gas station), and his home (it was on the second floor of a now one-story apartment building).  But of all this, they say the scariest part happened before the twister hit.  "We get to the door, we're pulling on it, and we found out it was locked, and that was probably the scariest part for me," said Hannah, "when we found out the gas station was locked. We could tell it was close, but we had no other place to go , there was nothing else around there.  I knew that was our only chance right there.  And when those doors were locked, that was the scariest thing ever."

What we couldn't show you is all the near-misses the Ward family had.  They left their apartment minutes before the tornado hit it, they ran a red light while driving to the gas station so they could get into it in time.  And minutes after they got out of the gas station, it exploded.  But everyone who was in the gas station made it out safely.

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There is a Fund set up to help the Ward's father in Joplin.  You can help:

  • Security State Bank
    101 N. Washington

    Wellington, KS
    620-326-7417
    Ward Family Disaster Relief Fund
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