Joplin Survivor Tells OK Parents: 'Have to Try to Be Strong'


"I had heard Crystal had been taken off to the hospital with Keana," she said. "When we got to her house we had to park and walk what seemed like hundreds of miles. The house was gone.

"A gentleman who never gave his name came up and said, 'Well, I hate to tell you this, but one of the grandkids is underneath that blanket' -- my granddaughter. "

On the way to the hospital in Kansas City, Trentan's heart stopped. He was resuscitated, but determined to be brain dead.

"His dad was with him," Whitely said. "Crystal was in the hospital and he called her to let her say goodbye to her son."

Today Crystal Whitely, 32 and a single mother, continues to work at the hearing center at a local hospital, but she wants little to do with publicity.

"Crystal really has a hard time with it," said her mother. "The first anniversary comes, and then the second anniversary and there are more things on TV about it. She really hopes people understand that she doesn't want to keep going through it again."

The TV show, "Extreme Makeover," rebuilt the family's house, outfitting it with storm shelters in a garage, with a computer and a weather radio, everything she needs for the next time a tornado strikes.

Despite living in so-called tornado alley, Whitely said she accepts fatalistically the force of nature that took her grandchildren.

"No matter where you go, there is something: earthquakes in California and hurricanes [on the East Coast]," she said. "No matter where you go, you can't get away from something happening. Look at the guy in Florida who was swallowed up by the earth."

Whitely said she, like the survivors of Moore, Okla., lives "day to day."

"If you are a religious person, ask God to help you with all the pain and suffering," she said. "I know they are in heaven, and I know I will see them one day, but it's still hard for us here on earth. It's nothing you ever forget."

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