Mercy Hospital: An inside look at ‘ground zero’ of the Joplin tornado

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JOPLIN, Mo. (KODE) – Of all the buildings that were destroyed by the tornado, the Mercy Hospital building was one of the most critical.

Hundreds of lives were impacted by just that one building with hundreds of stories.

“Everybody took cover and we were there for what seemed like an eternity. Umm, and everybody did the best we could, you know. And we hit the middle of it and there was the moment when we all thought we were done and then the second part of it hit and we knew it was even worse than the first part. There’s moments, ‘Am I going home? Was this morning the last time I saw my family?'” says Kevin Kepley, Mercy RN Coronary Care Unit Night of May 22nd.

“In the closet, all I could think about was my family. But the minute we stepped out of that area, it was like go to work mode,” says Ashley Miller, Mercy RN Coronary Care Unit Night of May 22nd.

“I got a text message from the hospital saying the hospital had been hit. You know I told my husband, I said, ‘You know I gotta go.’ I got out of the truck and I said, ‘I’ll talk to you later.’ And I didn’t realize it would be another 27 hours before I went back,” says Miranda Lewis, Former Mercy Media Relations Coordinator.

Miller adds, “And even the ones that could walk, didn’t have shoes on and the glass and the debris everywhere was an obstacle. Because, we couldn’t ask them to walk on the glass. So, but we couldn’t find any belongings. So we were just like wrapping towels around their feet to try to get them to walk.”

Lewis says, “They were afraid that the hospital was going to explode, and so I remember running down 26th street and all at once like everything, the sound just closed. For whatever reason. And I remember thinking, I’m too close. And this thing goes and I’m a statistic. All at the time that I could think about was that my mom would have to hear it.”

“North side, you could look out the window and just see the path of destruction. And my heart sank, because I knew that we needed to help our people, be we also knew there was people that were really in bad shape out there,” says Kepley.

“The hospital is a beacon of hope and health. So, everybody who was hurt in the community, the first thing they do is, ‘We’ve gotta get to the hospital.’ But they didn’t know the hospital had been hit too,” says Miller.

Lewis says, “You know, we were helping bring people in on desk chairs, on doors, and just, you know, trying to just get people in. Obviously, Memorial Hall was overwhelmed pretty quickly and so they opened up McAuley.”

Kepley recalls, “Getting home at 3 AM, you know all my kids were asleep. But, that was the first thing that I did was just stood in their doorway and have that moment of reflection that I did get to see them again and there were going to be people that weren’t going to get to see their family. You feel sorry for them. Over the ten years, as you look back and you reflect, and as I’ve learned more and more about the sisters and realizing the stuff they go through and have went through, um, it gives you that sense of the resiliancy. And you realize that people, in general, and even the people who live here in this community that have been through this, um, there’s always a way.”

“So many people come into this life, leave this life. You know, you go through some of your best of times and worst of times in a hospital. And doing it at St. John’s, at Mercy that’s special. And so, I love the fact that they’ve kept the monuments and the statues and the care that they took to preserve what was here. And all of the lives that have come and gone over the years, on, on this ground,” says Lewis.

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