Stories of survival emerge from tornado victims

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The trailer that was once the home of Viva Johnson’s mother was sitting in a graveyard on Saturday, covering the dead alongside downed trees and other debris.

“You can’t even tell where the headstones are,” said Ms. Johnson, who lives in Pulaski County, Ky.

In Indiana, a toddler was found alone in a field near her family’s home after a tornado hit in New Pekin.

Authorities learned Saturday she is the sole survivor of her immediate family, said Cis Gruebbel, a spokeswoman for Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Ky. The girl’s mother, father, 2-month-old sister and 2-year-old brother all died Friday, Washington County Coroner Rondale Brishaber said.

The toddler was in critical condition with extended family members at the hospital. Authorities are still trying to figure out how she ended up in the field.

“She is in extremely critical condition,” Jack Brough, the girl’s grandfather, told the Courier-Journal of Louisville. “She’s had a lot of injuries to her head. The doctors told us that the next 24 to 48 hours are very critical.”

About 20 miles east, a twister demolished Henryville, Ind., the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder “Colonel” Harland Sanders. The second story of the elementary school was torn away, one of the city’s three schools lost to the weather. The winds also blew out the windows and gutted the Henryville Community Presbyterian Church.

A school secretary said a bus left the city’s high school Friday afternoon with 11 children, but the driver turned back after realizing they were driving straight into the storm. The children hid under tables and desks at the school nurse’s station when the tornado hit. None was hurt, but the building is a total loss.

The school bus was tossed several hundred yards into the side of a nearby restaurant. Todd and Julie Money were hiding there, having fled their Scottsburg home because it has no basement.

“Unreal. The pressure on your body, your ears pop, trees snap,” Mr. Money said. “When that bus hit the building, we thought it exploded.”

The storms hit as far east as Ohio, where the Ohio River town of Moscow was so decimated that rugs hung from the trees.

In Kentucky, the Rev. Kenneth Jett of the West Liberty United Methodist Church was huddling with four others in the basement as the church collapsed.

The pastor and his wife had just returned to the parsonage when he turned on the TV and saw the storm coming. Mr. Jett yelled to his wife to take shelter in the basement of the church next door, where they were joined by two congregants and a neighbor.

The last one down was Mr. Jett’s wife, Jeanene.

“I just heard this terrific noise,” she said. “The windows were blowing out as I came down the stairs.”

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