Jun 22, 2011 • By

Two of the many heroes in Joplin

The Walmart store off Range Line Road in Joplin, Missouri took a direct hit in the tornado that tore through the city on May 22. Sadly, several people inside the store at the time or in the parking lot were killed.

While the twister’s winds swirled and ripped off the roof and tossed items off the store shelves, two of our Joplin employees were among the 200 people or so inside who took cover.

Greg Gratz, a manufacturing & engineering associate at our Joplin plant, found shelter in the toy department. Dave Kyger, a logistics specialist, covered his head as he was on the ground of the electronics and DVD area.

Greg recounts what he saw, heard and felt before, during and after the tornado hit the store in this video interview.

As Greg said, he credits his two late sisters for keeping him safe. (Greg’s story of surviving the tornado also was featured in the Tulsa World newspaper).

Greg says he walked to his apartment, across the street from Walmart, after he crawled out of the store. He saw that his apartment building also was destroyed but he was able to salvage some things. He then walked back to Walmart and helped look for injured tornado victims before he spent the night at a friend’s house.

As for Dave, he shares his experience inside the store, in this video interview.

Dave stayed in the Walmart for about three hours after the tornado and helped rescue people who were trapped. He also walked about 50 people out of the debris and then helped locate blankets, flashlights and other supplies inside the store.

He then walked home – about four miles – through the Joplin neighborhoods that were wiped out, because his car was destroyed in the Walmart parking lot.

Joplin plant manager Sean Anderson told me that Greg and Dave are examples of several General Mills employees who have helped out across Joplin, in and after the storm.

“We have a lot of heroes from our team, and people that we should be proud of,” Sean says, “Once they realized that the storm had passed, they went and helped their neighbors and helped the victims wherever they were. That’s just part of who they are.”

Editor’s note: To see what it looked like inside the Joplin Walmart after the tornado you can view this video from ABC News. And, for an eyewitness account from two Walmart employees read this account, and this post, from The Wall Street Journal blog “Dispatch.”

We’ll have more stories about our Joplin employees affected by the May 22 tornado tomorrow and Friday, concluding a special series of posts here on “A Taste of General Mills.”

We started our series with this post, featuring some of the experiences of several of our employees.