First person on Joplin missing list found alive

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — As emergency workers in Joplin searched Thursday for more than 230 people listed as missing after a tornado tore through the city, one was sitting in a wooden chair outside the wreckage of her home, cuddling her cat.

Sally Adams, 75, said neighbors rescued her Sunday after the storm destroyed her house and took her to a friend’s home. When The Associated Press told Adams she was on the missing list, she laughed and said “Get me off of there!”

Missouri officials had said they believed many of the missing were safe and alive but simply hadn’t been in touch with friends and family. When they released the list of 232 names Thursday morning, they urged survivors to check in. Cell phone service in the city remains spotty.

Adams said she lost her phone in the storm and had no way of contacting her family to let them know she was OK. She was placed on the missing list after relatives called a hot line and posted Facebook messages saying she was missing.

Adams’ son, Bill Adams, said he told authorities his mother was alive after he learned she was safe, yet she remained on their unaccounted-for list Thursday afternoon.

Mike O’Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said he wouldn’t call Adams’ listing a mistake and he said finding her is “a good thing.” He urged other survivors to check the list and call if they see their names.

The Associated Press found nine of the missing. Two, Mike and Betty Salzer, were at a hotel being used by visiting journalists.

“Well, for Heaven’s sakes,” Betty Salzer, 74, said when the AP showed her the list.

The couple have been staying at the hotel since their home was destroyed Sunday. Betty Salzer said the couple’s names might have come from a Facebook message her daughter posted before they reached her Monday morning.

Carthage resident Brenda Lombard told The Associated Press that six of her relatives on the list were safe and staying with friends. She said she was worried after the storm, but she talked to her nephew, Allen Merritt, 26, on Wednesday, and he, his wife, mother and three children are all safe.

She suspected a cousin who is a firefighter placed the family on the missing list after driving by her sister’s house and seeing it demolished.

“They were back yesterday looking through the debris,” Lombard said. “Allen keeps saying, ‘Man that was scary. It was sucking my baby up.'”

He rescued his 3-year-old daughter by pulling her under a bed and covering her with his body.

Not all of the stories of the missing will end so well. The tornado killed 125 people, and some of their families waited Thursday for their remains to be released. One victim’s funeral was scheduled for Friday morning in Galena, Kan., and other services were scheduled for the weekend.

But some of the bodies have yet to be identified. Andrea Spillars, deputy director and general counsel of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said officials know some of the people unaccounted for are dead, but she wouldn’t say how many or when the names of the deceased would be released.

One example of the potential overlap: 12 residents of the Greenbriar Nursing Home are on the list. But nursing home administrators reported earlier that 11 people died in the tornado; only one was known missing.

One of the 12 is Dorothy Hartman, an Alzheimer’s patient. Pamela McBroom, 49, who lives near the nursing home, said one of her daughters used to work there, developed a soft spot for Hartman and introduced them. Hartman was frail “but very positive and full of life,” she said.

McBroom said she and her 16-year-old daughter were hiding in a closet when the tornado tore their walls and roof away. Her walls gone, McBroom could see the mayhem at Greenbriar.

“I could see people flying out of the nursing home by my house,” McBroom said. “I could hear them screaming. Just screaming. It was horrible.”

It wasn’t known Thursday what happened to Hartman. Nursing home officials haven’t said whether she was one of the 11 killed.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

The Associated Press