The Filipino Channel-Balitang America
May 26, 2011
Text and video by Ted Regencia
JOPLIN, Mo. – Even as the tight-knit Filipino community in Joplin continues to mourn the death of two kababayans, stories of survival are also being told by many.
Today occupational therapist Frank Herrera turns 35. His family is now homeless. His pregnant wife and their daughter are all alive. He said that is his best birthday gift.
On Wednesday, Herrera returned to his heavily-damaged house to retrieve their belongings, including a Sto. Nino relic and the bottles of vitamins for his daughter. He showed the bathtub where they were huddled at the height of the tornado.
The house of elderly couple Pablo and Liwanag Damaso was also a complete wreck. After seeing the damage, it is hard to imagine how they survived.
At the spot where their apartment once stood, family members helped them find their personal possessions. Lolo Pablo and Lola Liwanag credited their faith in God and the Virgin Mary for protecting them.
Ritchell Johnston, a native of Cebu, was a charge nurse at the Green Briar Nursing Home on the night of the disaster. Her staff gathered the patients in the hallway while awaiting the tornado.
The whole building collapsed on top of them. She made it out alive after being wedged between dead bodies and debris. 12 people were killed at the nursing home.
With sprained and bruised legs, she ran six blocks to check on her family before returning to help other victims. Her Fil-Am brother-in-law also lost his apartment and car.
Doctors Enrico and Eden Esguerra are Filipino pioneers in Joplin. The wife worked at St. John’s Regional Hospital, a nine-story building, which was heavily damaged in the tornado. It now looks like it’s been hit by a huge bomb.
Along with miraculous counts of survival, there still exists tremendous loss in the community as they try to move forward.