Surviving an F-5 Tornado
By Audra Smith Haney
The 700 Club
CBN.com -On May 22nd, 2011 Andrew and Danielle Stammer were driving to a friend’s home with their two children when they heard tornado sirens.
“We heard that there was a tornado possibility and that there was a warning coming through Joplin, the north side, where we were heading,” Danielle said.
The couple soon heard that a second storm cell was heading for the middle of Joplin. They decided to take shelter at the hospital where Andrew was employed. Unaware of how imminent the danger, they first stopped by their home for personal belongings.
“I was wanting to make sure that we had our essential things,” Andrew said, “like passports and birth certificates.”
“There was really no fear at all,” Danielle said. “Every other storm that came would circle Joplin, it would either run to the North or South. We had no idea that what was happening was happening RIGHT then.”
As they began their drive to St. John’s hospital, they realized how quickly the storm was approaching.
“I didn’t see anybody outside,” Andrew said. “I didn’t see any other cars and there was just like a quiet but then we could see a wall of black in front of us.”
“There was no wind,” Danielle said. “Everything was still, everything was quiet, but everything was charged. Then, we saw out of the black sky, this shoot of light going straight up. They call them power surges I think, and that is one of the indicators that a tornado has touched the ground. I prayed out loud ‘Lord, please protect our family. We are in over our heads here.’”
The family made it to the entryway of St. John’s hospital with mere minutes to spare. Danielle grabbed one-year-old Ethan and ran inside.
“I walked into the glass entryway and turned around and the wind was so strong that Andrew was having a hard time getting into the building where we were,” Danielle said. “He was hunched over with Emily, our at that time 3 year old, against his chest, bared down, step at a time, just to get into where we were.”
When Andrew made it inside, they realized the hospital was on lockdown and they realized they were unable to get past the entryway.
“Basically, I was just thinking that I need to get my family to safety and this is not safe right now,” Andrew said. “I just had Emily in my left hand and I just started slamming myself against it, and after about 6 or 7 times, the door broke off the bottom track.”
The couple slipped underneath the cracked door, just seconds before an F5 tornado, one of the deadliest in U.S. history, slammed directly into the hospital.
“As soon as I slipped under the door, no sooner had I gotten right past it all the lights went out and I was immediately thrown down on the floor with my son underneath me,” Danielle said. “The tornado was hitting the building at full force in that moment.”
The family was separated in an instant.
“I mean as soon as I walked in and the lights went out, I had no idea what had happened to them,” Danielle said.
“I was picked up off my feet, went about 10 or 15 feet across the floor and got slammed into that door and all the while, I was still holding Emily,” Andrew said. “The next thing I knew I was on the bottom stair of the outside staircase with my daughter underneath me.”
In the midst of the raging storm, the couple cried out to God.
“I was holding the railing up above and the only thing I could do was cry out to God,” Andrew said. “I was just crying out God save us.”
“I had my baby nestled under me,” Danielle said. “I just laid there on the floor and as I was singing. I was just singing worship songs, whatever came to mind, and I felt so peaceful. I felt like I could almost touch peace and that if I would have lifted my eyes, I would have seen glory. I thought, ‘okay, this is how my story ends.’ I thought, you know what, I think they’ll find him and he will be okay.
St. John’s hospital was severely mangled by the storm. Upper stories were completely destroyed, cars in the parking lot were toseed and disfigured beyond recognition.
“When I couldn’t find my wife and son, I was very nervous,” Andrew said. “and I just wanted to be back with her and so I just went back into the hospital. I don’t know if I called out for her, or if she called out for me.”
But, Andrew and Danielle Stammer’s prayers were answered. They successfully held their children in their arms and the family walked away with only minor cuts and bruises.
“I can’t remember what happened but we finally got back together,” Andrew said. “I remember hugging her, but it was a very short lived, our reunion.”
After their reunion, the couple had to quickly face the reality of the storm and its widespread destruction.
“It looked like a totally different landscape, Andrew said. “There is no houses there, there are trees that are not there anymore, and as far as the eye could see.. right at that point is destruction.”
They say that while prayer offered them supernatural protection during the storm, it also brought them comfort in the aftermath.
“It was interesting because both of us had the same reactions to it all,” Andrew said. “replaying what could have happened, what could have happened and both of us fought against it and proclaimed truth the winner and neither of us had nightmares about the tornado after that.”
Though the family lost their home, their cars, and all of their belongings that day, they say they are still thankful for the blessings they have and the help they received from others.
“His provision through his people was so beautiful,” Danielle said. “People who we didn’t know were doing our laundry, people were just everywhere lining the streets, doing what they could to help. People were just so generous and I thought, when someone else is suffering I want to do these kind of things.”
Danielle wrote about their miraculous survival in her book “Singing Over Me.” They hope the book will show others how prayer brought them protection, comfort, and strength despite the tornado.
“In the midst of him saving us, He has given us this gift of this story that we have--this story of triumph and survival in the midst of horrendous circumstances.,” Andrew said. “The hope that I have for the future, the hope that I have for now, is so much greater.”
“ I know that God heard us,” Danielle said. “I am so thankful that he showed me that he is with me. I definitely believe that prayer changes the world.”
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