Jun 24, 2011 • By

Reliving a tornado’s terror

The tornado sirens in Joplin, Mo. went off for the first time on Sunday, May 22 shortly after Nate Witherspoon returned home after spending that weekend relaxing at a lake in Arkansas.

Nate, a bagger operator at our General Mills manufacturing facility in Joplin, didn’t pay much attention to that first siren. Didn’t take it seriously.

Yet, Nate thought there was something about the way the sky looked that was different than other storms.

And his compelling eyewitness account of the tornado, in this video interview, puts you in his shoes as the twister passed over his house.

Nate came out of his house – which stood firm against the storm – and heard people all around him calling out for help, saying they were trapped in what was left of their homes.

He helped rescue a few neighbors, digging through the debris to get to them.

The whole time he was helping he wondered if his two sons and his grandchildren, who lived a few miles away, had survived.

His sons, ages 30 and 25, ended up driving to his street that night to check on him.

“I was never so glad to see them in my life,” Nate says. “We hugged and they didn’t want to let me go.”

Due to cell phone outages, Nate wasn’t able to contact his sister and mother until the next day.

Editor’s note: This post concludes our special series of posts featuring our Joplin employees affected by the May 22 tornado. We started our series with this post, featuring some of the experiences of several of our employees.