The story you are about to read is a first-hand account of what Delbert McGuirk and his family went through on the day of the disaster, as told by Delbert himself. This story is posted as it was written to portray the reality of events exactly the way they were recalled from that day on May 22, 2011. At the time of the storm, Delbert and his family lived at 2430 Pennsylvania Ave., Joplin, MO (pictured above).
To who ever reads this,my name is Delbert McGuirk. I and my family did live at 2430 Pennsylvania Avenue in Joplin,Mo. before the tornado on May 22 2011. We now rent a small house just outside of Carl Junction,Mo. We have been there since the tornado. I have been through a lot in the last 2 years. There is a lot I have never told anyone about what I saw the evening of the 22nd, I told myself and others that what I saw I may never tell. But I have set and thought about it and decided that maybe if I did tell people what I saw and went through during and after the tornado that maybe it will bring me some sort of, I guess you could say, peace.
Then my wife told me about your group that is going to be at Cunningham Park and would like to here the stories from the people that went through the tornado, and I decided to set down and tell my story. Now I am not going to sugar coat anything, it will be as I saw it and some maybe a little graffic, but if you want my story that is what you are going to get.
I am going to start a few minutes before I got home, so here we go.
It was May 22 2011, everything seemed to be a normal Sunday evening. I was coming home from taking my cousin to his house and was almost home and started hearing on the radio of some bad weather West of Joplin heading north east. I didn’t think of it much, storms in May are a commen thing and that evening didn’t seem any differant. Just before I pulled up to my home, it came over the radio about something serious was going on around Mercy hospital (St Johns). So when I stopped and got out of my truck I stood in the corner of my property and looked to the south west at St. Johns. What I saw scared the hell out of me. A tornado was hitting St Johns hospital head on. And on the north and south side of the hospital was a tornado funnel coming out of the sky.
So I ran into my house and told my wife and daughter and grandchildren to get into the basement right friggin now. That there was a tornado coming straight at us. I grabbed our 2 dogs and threw them down the steps to the basement and headed down after everyone else was down there. When we got to the basement we got against the west wall which was a double wall and got as close to it as we could. In a few seconds my ears started to pop and it sounded like a jet engine was coming into the basement,and then the windows started to blow out. At this time I was looking around to see if my family was doing ok. I looked out the window to see if it was coming at us and I saw something terrible. A woman was trapped in the wind from the tornado and was being blown around hitting all kinds of things. Then I saw the tornado and told everyone to get down.Then it hit our home. The tornado totally removed our entire home from over our heads. I mean everything. It even sucked the plumbing out of the basement.
Then I got blown on my back,then the eye of the tornado came directly over us. I looked up inside the tornado. I saw cars and houses blowing around inside the tornado,but it was strange. Here is all this stuff blowing around but there was no wind. Then I spotted something . I told myself I wouldn’t talk about this part but I am. I looked up in the tornado and saw cars,homes, dogs and human bodies flying around. I am not saying just adults,but children also. I don’t want to sound like I am crazy or anything because what happened that night was terrible. But in some freakish way,other than seeing the people and homes and all, what I saw was in a way, beautiful.
There was just total calm,nothing else. The colors were the most brilliant that I have ever seen in my life. I could see all the way up the tornado to clear sky. I had never seen the sky as clear. At that point I closed my eyes and waited for it to end. Then the backside of the tornado came and started dumping debris into our basement. My daughter was covered by debri, my grandchildren got all scrathed up. My wife got hit in the head by something and was bleeding. She had to go to Freemans hospital and got 8 stitches in her head. I was still on my back when the tornado blew a furnace unit into the basement and it landed across my lower legs. After the tornado finally passed I tried to get up and that is when I realized that the furnace was on my legs. So I pushed it off of me and started looking for my family. I saw my wife, she had my granddaughters. I started looking for my daughter but didn’t see her. Then I heard her yelling and screaming. I uncovered her and mad sure everyone was ok.That is when I noticed my wifes head was bleeding. So I took off my shirt and put it on her head to try and stop the bleeding. Once I got everyone together and determined that they were all able to walk, I started to get us the hell out of the basement.
We came up out of the basment and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It looked like a bomb went off. I looked in all directions and it was terrible. Then I looked to the east of where our home was andsaw a body lying across from our house. By that time I had helped my family out of the basement and told them to follow me and to move quickly, not wanting them to see the body that was just about 40 feet from us.
I took them west on 25th to Virginia street and went as far south as I could and then cut through peoples yards to get my wife, granddaughters and daughter to where the ambulance was at on 26th and main. As soon as my wife, daughter and 3 year old granddaughter was in the ambulance, I told the driver that there is a body by where my home was and pointed in the direction of my place and told him about how many feet to the east it was.
Then it started to rain and hail, so I took myself and my 8 year old granddaughter who had just turned 8 two days earlier to what was left of Taco Bell on 26th and main to get out of the weather so she wouldn’t get hurt. There I ran into my neighbors.They all made it out fine other than a lot of scratches. After the hail and rain stopped I asked them if they would watch my granddaughter long enough for me to see if my 2 dogs made it. I got to where my home was and started calling for them, my chiauhaha (sorry if it is miss spelled) Bo came to me. Other than being wet and dirty he was fine. But Maggie my English Bulldog didn’t come.
I kept yelling for her and a man came to me thinking I was looking for someone. I told him my family is fine and that I was trying to find both of my dogs. I told him what breed she was and he told me there was a lady that went into our basement and took her. Just then he saw her and I went and got my dog and thanked the lady for getting her.
Then I went back to Taco Bell and got my granddaughter and then started heading to my sisters house which is over by Air Port Drive north of Joplin. After I got there and made sure my grandaughter was taken care of I had my sister give me a ride to Freemans hospital. It took us almost 5 hours to get from Airport drive to Freemans hospital. It took me about 2 hours to find my family, thankfully they were ok. My wife got 8 stitches,and they cleaned up the wound on my granddaughters head. When I was finally able to find them I just stood there. Then I realized what happened and just went quiet.Then I looked around and saw all the people that were hurt. There were people with pieces of wood and tree limbs stuck in them, and people with broken arms and legs – and all I could do was just stand there.
When my wife and my family and I got to my sisters and got cleaned up and calmed down for what we could I noticed my legs were banged up and scratched. The next day my legs were hurting pretty good, but I got up and went into town and tried to find anything to salvage of our stuff. I didn’t find much but was able to find my wifes purse and some clothes. I did that for the next couple of days. During those days, my legs were hurting and my left big toe was turning black. Then on the 25th my wife noticed my toe and told me to get my butt toe the E.R.I told her they had their hands full that I would go later. But she said no and to get there now. So not to get into trouble with the wife so I went.
When I got there and went to the exam room, the nurse and doctor asked me how I injured my legs and feet, then they said never mind that was a stupid question. I told them what happened and they started to do blood work and things they needed to do. Later they came in and told me that they were going to admit me cause my left big toe was dead and it was going to have to be amputated and that I tested positive for MSRA in the wounds on my feet. So on May 25, 2011 I was admitted and they started giving me I.V antibiotics. The surgeon came in the next day and looked at my toe and told me it was going to have to come off.
Later they took me to get an MRI. They found that my wound was gang green and the infection was in the bone area of my foot. So on the 28th they amputated my left big toe. I was in the hospital for a few more days and went home.
The foot was starting to heal and was going pretty good then an infection occured and a bad one. They readmitted me to the hospital. Then a few days later after I recieved a good amount of antibiotics they took me to surgury and amputated half of my left foot. Everything went on, my foot healed up good and we rented a small home and started to rebuild our lives the best we could.The wifes wound healed up good as well as the granddaughters. I was talking to my employeer who was holding my job for me about coming back to work. I was excited about going back to work cause I have worked all my life. Then in October I had to go back into the hospital cause the toes of my right foot had become infected and turning black. After being in the hospital for a few days they told me that half of my right foot had to be amputated. So on October 10, 2011 half of my right foot was amputated.
Things were going ok for awhile and then my right foot became infected again. I was put into the hospital and put on I.V. antibiotics.I was in the hospital for almost 3 weeks. From October 2011 to June 2012 I was in and out of the hospital numerous time for reoccuring infections in my right foot. In late June I was admitted into the hospital again with an infection in my right foot. But this time the infection was spreading up the foot.The doctor came in and told me that I had 2 choices,take antibiotics for the rest of my life and hope the antibiotics don’t make me sick and it could kill me or amputation. He recommended amputation but of course it was my choice. He said he would talk to the surgeon and that the surgeon would be in to talk to me. The surgeon came in which I had gotten to know well. He walked in and closed the door and pulled up a chair,which he never had done before so I knew it was serious.
He talked to me and told me that him and the other doctor had talked for some time and agreed that amputation was the best choice. But he said it was my choice and mine alone. He told that he would be back on Monday to see what my choice was. So over the weekend I talked with my wife and decided to amputate. So on July 10, 2012 they took me to surgury and amputated my right leg below the knee.
It has been almost a year since the amputation. I have been in the hospital a couple of times for miner infections but they are healing fine. I recieved my prosthesis a week before Christmas 2012. My family is receiving a Habitat Home and we will be moving in shortly. The home is being built at 2223 Pennsylvania Avenue, 2 blocks to the north of where we did live. The wife and I also have adopted 2 of our granddaughters. So things are starting to go good for us. It has been a hard and tiring past 2 years. I am lucky cause even though I lost part of my foot and leg and my belongings, there are people that lost loved ones or their lives. You can replace a car or a home or what ever, but a life you can not.
Some people think I am strange cause I kinda joke about the tornado and my amputations, like I sometimes say since the tornado we no longer have car payments. I had a t-shirt made that says, My Toes Hurt. If I was to go to a Super Bowl party and needed a mug for beer, I could pop my fake leg off and cork the hole in the bottom and drink beer out of my fake leg. Maybe I am strange for doing that.
I hope that you learn something from this story, I could go on for hours, maybe later. Some of the things I have told in this story I have told no one.
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