A flurry of tornadoes in the South and Midwest killed 40 people last week, leaving a path of destruction across five states. But it wasn't all bad. Here, five inspiring stories of survival and miraculous luck:
1. The kids who survived being blown from their home
Latonya Stevens blacked out when a tornado ripped apart her North Carolina home. When she came to, only one of her four kids was at her side, and Stevens, fearing the worst, ran outside shouting, "Where's my babies!" The missing children — ages 3, 4, and 7 — had been in their rooms upstairs, and were swept away along with most of the home's second floor. Once the tornado passed, two of the kids were found nearby, but one, 7-year-old Jamal, had been thrown 100 feet. All three kids were fine, other than a few cuts and bruises. "It's a miracle they survived," said their grandfather, Clarence Gray Jr. "God was looking out for them."
2. The mom who saved her children
An Indiana woman, Stephanie Decker, rushed her children into the basement of her new house as the storm hit. She bound her 5-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son together in a blanket, and shielded them with her own body. The dream home that had taken seven months to build was reduced to rubble in seconds, and beams and other debris crashed into the basement, pinning Decker. She lost one leg below the knee, and her other foot. Her children survived without a scratch. Decker's husband, Joe, says he told her "'They're here because of you.' I let her know that nothing else matters. I said, 'You're going to be here for your kids, and you get to see them grow up.'"
3. The man who found a treasured keepsake in the rubble
Cody Schleuning's family members were flung in three directions when their mobile home was blown apart by a tornado in Missouri. His daughter, 15, was found three houses away. She was briefly hospitalized, as was his son, 16, and wife. Once all were safe, Schleuning returned to the wreckage and started picking through debris with his hands, looking for a sentimental keepsake to lift his wife's spirits. He found the ideal item: The engagement ring he had given his wife 10 years earlier. "I called her and she was crying," he said.
4. The Alabama man reunited with his imperiled dog
Greg Cook was at work when a tornado slammed into his Limestone County, Ala., house. When the winds subsided, he rushed home and found his neighborhood destroyed and most of his house gone. He assumed he would never again see his dog, a chocolate Labrador named Coco, who'd been left at home when Cook went to work. But Cook crawled through a window into what was left of a hallway, and found Coco, wet and shivering. "It was just such a relief, I was happy to see him," said Cook through tears. "I love my dog. He's my best friend."
5. The elderly couple who survived... in their bathtub
An elderly man and woman in Harrisburg, Ill., climbed into their bathtub as the twister hit. Their home took a direct hit, and not much was left. Their son found them some time later — "alert and awake" — underneath the bathtub, about 50 yards from where the home had stood.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
Subscribe to the Week