MCMURRAY'S FORMER BEDROOM DOOR SAVES LIVES
Jim Henry, Joplin Globe Sports Editory
The door to Jamie McMurray’s bedroom in his childhood home helped save two people’s lives during the May 22 tornado that struck Joplin.
Donna and Thomas Tinker lived in the home on East 25th Street that Jim and Sue McMurray built in the early 1970s.
“And when we built this house, it cost less than what a new pickup costs now,” Jim said.
Now the front wall is all that is standing after the tornado. The McMurrays visited the site on Thursday afternoon and heard Donna Tinker’s story.
“I was in the hallway,” she told Jamie. “I was in front of your door and Tom was laying on the floor in front of me. The hallway wall fell over on the other hallway wall, and we were underneath it.
“I was down on my knees. I really thought we were going to die. The door just protected us.”
One side of that door still had a 23-year-old message from Jamie: “I survived the 1988 IKF 4-cycle sprint grand national championships in Phoenix, Arizona.”
Besides some trees and debris that had been cleaned up from the yard, things hadn’t changed much around the home since the tornado. One room still had a purple shag carpet.
“My sister (Trisha) and I talked a few days ago, joking about the purple shag carpet,” McMurray said. “It was her choice. I thought it was really ugly. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that it was still here.”
“With the exception of this (front) wall, all the other walls are gone,” said Tinker, who bought the home from Sue McMurray four years ago. “We had some of (a neighbor’s) siding in our bathroom. The fireplace is gone, and it just blew the garage (away). ... You drive around and you see it, but you can’t believe it’s Joplin and our house.”
“For me,” McMurray said, “pulling into the neighborhood, you can’t recognize anything because there’s nothing to base, like the corner of. It’s so hard to understand what you’re looking at. Standing here looking, you know what it’s supposed to look like, but it’s just so different. Destroyed.
“I did a lot of good things here and a lot of bad things here. I have lots of memories. I saw pictures before I got here, which was good for me. I had been kind of preparing myself to not have a breakdown when I saw this. My mom just lived here a few years ago, and one of the first thoughts that went through my head when the tornado happened, not knowing how bad it was, ... what if my mom still lived there.”
Jim McMurray made an unsuccessful search for his son’s old workbench that was in the garage.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that no more people got hurt when you see how much devastation there is. It’s hard to take.
“I was here in ’74 when we had a tornado, and it got my parents’ house then, not bad but it did a lot of damage. But I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s hard to believe it can do all the damage and devastation and not have that many people get injured or pass.
“That big tree there (in the front corner of the lot destroyed by the tornado), Suzie and I planted it and it was about that tall (holding his hands a foot apart). We planted one there and one over there.”
The tornado hit the Tinker’s home the day before their 44th wedding anniversary.
“It was one of the prettiest houses in the neighborhood,” said Donna, who hopes they can rebuild on the site. “It was such a nice neighborhood. I just can’t comprehend it all. It’s just not real. But we’re alive. I’m not complaining.”