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    Posted May 25, 2011 by
    Joplin, Missouri
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Joplin tornado: One year later

    Corbow6 and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Joplin tornado
    More from Corbow6

    Five Minutes of Chaos. Years of Aftermath


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Corbow6 says he hopes he can spread the word about Joplin by continuing to write about the experience and recovery efforts. 'There is so much I didn't realize a disaster victim would go through, not just during the storm, but the days after are so stressful and uncertain,' he said.
    - katie, CNN iReport producer

    May 23rd 7:00pm.

    Breath-taking. Speechless. These words are  the first to come to mind after reflecting on the past day's experience.  118 confirmed dead so far and it has only been a little over 24 hours  since the largest single tornado disaster in over half of a century, but  as a lifetime cynic it’s hard not to see a bit of bright lining which  surprises me the most. The sense of community is strong. I see websites  that have popped up to help assess the damage and find missing family  and friends. My Facebook has become a jack-in hub to check on friends.  Each message I see a variation of "I’m fine but shaken." It’s astounding  that so far I know no one from the still-growing total of lives lost.  It doesn’t really sink in that I should have or could have easily been  the 119th. Working as a delivery driver I was actually at the  intersection of 20th and Main St. five minutes before the twister ripped  through that very same spot. It was at the point that rain looked like  it was going up that we knew things were bad. Looking out the back door  of the Pizza Hut on 28th and Main the crew were the only ones  there, and we noticed a young teenager standing on his front porch, his  back towards the main cell, that we demanded he get inside. Thirty  seconds later the eight of us were in our food freezer listening to the  outer walls of our store being ripped from the foundation. Stupidly, or  stoically, I pulled the pack of my cigarettes from my pocket to light  one. My manager looked at me and said, "Now is as good a time as any."  So all of us, even the non-smokers, huddled together wondering if this  was the last one we would have.

    It’s odd though, because in  other situations where I have skirted death time really has slowed.  Though, in those, I usually had control of my fate in some way, so it  was much different this time. It’s calming-- being in complete darkness  just listening to the sound of your possible demise, but quick. It  seemed to take just a minute or so, and then the worst of the chaos was  over. That's when the assessment took over. We stepped out of the  freezer to see the wall in front of us pretty much pulled completely  free of the foundation. Picking over fallen debris we made it outside to  really understand what just happened. I’ve read it in countless stories  already but, "It was all gone" is really all I could think, and I guess  until you actually go through something like this you don’t really get  what that means, but as a delivery driver it really sunk in while  driving on a street I literally take dozens of times a day and I was  lost. I got the first taste of the tornado's power as our manager picked  some of us up to go help others around town, and we drove down 26th to  see an SUV wrapped around a telephone pole by the roof and it was 15  feet in the air; stuck. We soon realized though that it was almost  impossible to drive to help so we went back and luckily my car was still  drivable, albeit heavily beaten. Taking a coworker to his house we gave  at least 15 people a ride to where we were headed. It was heartbreaking  to see the mass of people running frantically or walking broken, just  drifting lost down the streets unsure of what had just happened. After  dropping off my coworker to a luckily undamaged house my only thought  was on my girlfriend. As I made my way to our apartment complex on 20th  and Connecticut my heart dropped when i saw my apartment basically  leveled. My girlfriend had been picked up for work 10 minutes before it  hit but i was unsure how far they had made it from the heart of the  disaster, and at that point I was unwilling to accept what may have  happened.

    Turning around I felt my phone vibrating on  my leg to look down and see such a warm name on the screen. “Dad.” I  quickly grabbed it to answer, heard him ask if I was okay, and I was  able to get out, “Yeah, I’m fine—“ before my phone dropped the call, but  after such a disaster I know it was enough. Just to have the relief of  finally making contact with someone, and of all people my father, was  enough to kick me into overdrive. Adrenaline pumping I drove my battered  car missing both passenger windows through the city to make it to a  casino on the outskirts of town where my girlfriend was headed. The  drive was a blink. Rain was pelting me in the face, my body was soaked  and numb, glass rained down from a broken sunroof above, and none of it  really crossed my mind.

    No one really tells you what it’s going to  be like. How could they? I guess that’s why I have this feeling floating  through my head that it’s unfair. I keep having these moments while  writing this where I hit a particularly overwhelming memory that forces  me to stop and collect my words. It’s strange how much I remember, yet,  at the time I didn’t even notice. Anyway, back to the storm, I was  blazing down I-44, but luckily toward Oklahoma I was away from the  overturned semi-trucks that littered the highway farther west. As I  pulled into Downstream Casino my first thought was to remain calm. No  one benefits from panic, so I hurriedly walked towards the entrance and  stopped the first member of security I could find. I will say though,  after witnessing the experience firsthand, protocol is annoying. I know  it’s there for a purpose, but at the time, you just don’t care. He told  me he couldn’t divulge information about employees, so I explained  briefly what had happened (with some malice I might add), and he  expectedly made an exception. Calling one of the managers out, she told  me that she was almost sure she had seen Elizabeth, and my heart jumped.  It took a few minutes of tense waiting, but after pacing around the  casino I finally saw her walk out. She had no idea what had happened,  other than a tornado had hit. She asked what had happened, and the only  thing I could manage was a hug. The first wave of this disaster felt  finished, but there was much more to come. Much more that no one can be  prepared for. Much more that no one should ever have to go through. Much  more that still hasn’t ended three days later. And much more I’ll still  be writing about to try and help. It may not help these people--my  city, and my newly bonded family glued together by this amazing act of  nature. I just hope this chronicle might help those who come after—those  people who will be affected by the next big storm.

    File 1: Southwest corner of 26th St. and Main. Liquour and Smokes sign. Two blocks from where I took shelter.

    File 2: East side of my apartment. Dining room window. Located at Somerset Apartments on 20th and Connecticut Apartment Building E.

    File 3: More of the Liqour and Smokes store.

    File 4: Taco Bell at the same intersection as Liqour and Smokes.

    File 5: Walk-in Freezer where we took shelter at Pizza Hut. Untouched.

    File 6: Outside view of my apartment building. Center mound is what was left of a 3-story building.

    File 7: Same shot. More destruction.

    File 8: Shot from outside my bedroom window looking in.

    File 9: Video taken about 2 minutes after the tornado tore through our store.
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