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Twin mattress saves Orem family from Joplin tornado

By Jed Boal | Posted - May 27, 2011 at 5:55 p.m.


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OREM -- Breathtaking tales of survival keep emerging from Joplin. The latest comes from an Orem family who rode out the storm under a mattress.

More specifically, it was a twin futon mattress, roughly 3 feet by 6 feet.

Now imagine nine people -- six of them adults -- under that mattress for three terrifying minutes.

"All I know is, we were watched out for," said Dan Barker, the father of that family who survived the devastating Missouri tornado.

Dan and his wife Kate went to Joplin with their daughter and a family friend for the graduate school graduation of their son, James. All four of them were in James' house with his family of five when the second tornado siren sounded.


"It's like, ‘This didn't happen, I'm going to wake up,'" she said. "You don't wake up from this." -Tornado survivor Kate Barker

They had 10 seconds to take cover and dove toward the futon. The men held the mattress while the women huddled under with the children.

"It was like a semi-truck, but intensify that sound by 100 fold," Kate said. "You can hear the roof ripping off, and we could feel the wind."

For three long minutes they huddled -- and then it was over.

As they emerged, it was raining inside.

"Sirens is all we heard for the next 12 to 24 hours," Kate said.

Their emotions are still raw.

"It's like, ‘This didn't happen, I'm going to wake up,'" she said. "You don't wake up from this."

The category F5 tornado killed at least 132 people, and teams are trying to locate more than 150 who are listed as missing.

At their son James' home, the roof is now gone. The inside of the house where they took cover caved in. Other homes fared much worse.

"Devastation was really hard to see--people standing there, homes gone," Kate said.

"Those people have nothing," Dan said. "I don't know what they're going to do."

James and his family have moved to a nearby town where he'll start a teaching job in August, but his current job was wiped away with the tornado.

Tuesday morning the Barkers found a narrow window of opportunity to leave Joplin. They drove home dodging more tornado warnings all the way.

Email: jboal@ksl.com

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