News

Desperation drives searches for loved ones, pets and possessions

Updated: 2011-09-28T14:46:08Z

By DONALD BRADLEY and MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS

The Kansas City Star

JOPLIN, Mo. | At a disaster like Joplin’s, there is looking, and there is looking.

The first involves gaping at the destruction and wondering how anybody got out alive.

The second means searching through the wreckage, or the hospitals, or the command centers, or the Internet sites trying to find someone, hoping they got out alive.

More than 1,700 missing-person reports resulted from the tornado Sunday. Most are simply cases of being dislocated by a disaster, out of touch with loved ones.

But others …

We are looking for family that lived at 26th and Sergeant, their names are Calvin and Ada Nance. If anyone has information please post here.

On foot and in postings on laptops and cellphones, thousands Tuesday were looking.

“They come in distraught, and they want some answers,” noted Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Roger Renken at the missing-persons center at Missouri Southern State University.

But answers are elusive.

Can anyone give me word on whether Eddie Durham and family survived?

“The worst thing is the not knowing,” Rob Gertz said, still searching for his 70-year-old mother.

The Joplin man did not find Tedra Kuhn in the ruins of her apartment, nor on the American Red Cross’s safe list. Gertz called every hospital said to have taken in survivors. Not there.

“I’ve physically checked every shelter, and after hearing over and over, ‘She’s not here,’ it gets hard. I just want to know for sure. I’ve been calling her name now for two days.”

He began his search Sunday night.

“As I topped the hill, it looked like a nuclear bomb had hit. I just thought: ‘Well, she’s dead. There is no way anyone could survive that.’ ”

But Gertz didn’t find her at the makeshift morgue on the Missouri Southern campus, either. His best hope: a man recalling a victim fitting her description being carried out of the apartment rubble.

I’m looking for my mother. She lives at 2946 McClelland Blvd., by the hospital. Last contact was Sunday, right when the tornado would have touched down. She was outside chasing her almost solid black border collie when I lost connection. Please Help! … I’m located in Idaho and I feel helpless.

The heartfelt pleas are found on electronic pages at several sites, many by out-of-towners with little knowledge about whether the loved one even lived near the twister’s path.

They rely on the mercy of strangers-turned-Facebook buddies, bound together by tragedy, to get any piece of information, bit of hope.

Charles (Charlie) Writer is 74 and is missing from the Greenbriar Nursing Home. … He has Alzheimer’s but is wearing his ankle bracelet. Please, if you have seen him let us know.

The luckier ones walked down streets calling for lost pets or looking for heirlooms.

An entire Facebook site, “Joplin Tornado Debris Lost and Found,” is dedicated to helping retrieve personal items blown away. Most postings involve family photos — one was found by a farmer in a pasture 90 miles to the east and spotted on the site — but not all.

Missing pocketwatch with great sentimental value. 21 jewel, open-faced Elgin with a picture of a Rainbow Trout on it. “Grandpa Arnold” is engraved on the watch. This pocketwatch was last seen inside a large fire-proof safe with a car title, several truck titles, my birth certificate, marriage license and divorce decree. All those things can be replaced — the watch cannot.

Sitting in a chair on the hardwood floor of her bedroom with the sky above her, Kathrin Elmborg looked at peace. She had ridden out the tornado, and the ring from her sweetheart was back on her finger. Friends from church dug through the rubble and found the engagement ring that her husband gave her 63 years ago.

“He’s passed away now, but he would want me to have this,” Elmborg said

LOST BULL MASTIFF — Sampson. Last seen in the Joplin area, home is gone, family fine.

At a warehouse on the city’s north end, Terry Davis nervously asked about Sammy, a dachshund. They had one, a volunteer said.

“Is he fat?” Davis asked.

It wasn’t Sammy. But Davis stopped to pet some of the 100 dogs in the emergency shelter. Far more are expected over the next days.

Does anyone know anything about Susan Crespino and her husband Kevin and their two boys?

Marla Hansen of Lee’s Summit drove down Sunday to look for her father and 16-year-old brother. Hansen, who is studying criminal justice at Metropolitan Community College-Longview and has training in search and rescue, set off on her own.

For the next 12 hours Hansen and the crew dug their way in and out of house after house “looking for people and helping to get them out,” she said.

About 5:30 a.m. she learned her family was safe although barricaded inside their home by fallen trees and power lines.

Hansen had found what she was looking for. But others …?

Looking for Sue and Misty Wilson, Rick King, and Johnny Rose. Just want to know they are ok.

To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to dbradley@kcstar.com.

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