Woman Reaches 60 Family Members In Tornado-Ravaged Joplin, Mo.

By: Randy Yohe Email
By: Randy Yohe Email

SOUTH SHORE, KY (WSAZ) -- We live in an age of instant communication.

But a family matriarch who lives more than 600 miles from many loved ones in Joplin, Mo., spent nearly 36 hours without hearing from them. A devastating tornado hit that city Sunday, killing more than 100 people.

Those hours would have been nearly unbearable without a strong enduring faith.

Jan Brown was in church Sunday night not far from her South Shore, Ky., apartment building when her sister called about the tornado that had just hit Joplin.

Her sister Gertrude’s phone call launched Brown into panic mode.
But, she knew she had to keep it together because Brown has more than 60 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in and around Joplin.

“I've got three daughters, 23 grand kids, 28 more great-grand kids -- 12 getting married, and I had no idea if they were safe," Brown said. "It was agonizing."

She says she can not count the number of times she called her loved ones -- not able to get through to any of them.

But, the Joplin tornado knocked out more than a dozen cell phone towers, making it impossible for loved ones like Brown to get life or death information.

Brown says she did not know if they were alive or all dead. For sleepless hours on end, when she wasn't calling or painfully watching The Weather Channel or searching for information online, she read her Bible.

She prayed and had five churches praying for them.

Finally around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, going on two agonizing days after the tornado ravaged Joplin, grandson Jason called Brown with the best news she's ever heard in her life.

“He said they were all safe," she said. "And you don't know the elation -- I thank God for keeping them all safe.”

We talked to Brown’s daughter Jane in Joplin. She says the family also tried and failed until Tuesday to reach Jan Brown with their survival story.

Brown says she doesn't travel well any more, but daughter Jane says some of the family will visit South Shore later this summer.

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