Tornado survivors reflect on storm that tore through Springfield 30 years ago

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The F-3 tornado that tore through the Queen City ON April 29, 1983, killed one person, injured more than a dozen others, and left a lasting impression on thousands of Ozarkers.  It's been three decades since then, but those who survived the storm say their memories of that day are still vivid, making the tragedy seem much more recent.

"I was at the bowling alley, Sunshine lanes.  I remember going toward the doors, because we were getting ready to leave, and the sirens were going off, so everybody headed to the basement," said Ashley Mooneyham.

It was a Friday night in the Queen City when the sky turned dark and rain started coming down.
Mooneyham was just 8 years old and was out bowling with her mom and dad when the F-3  tornado ripped through Republic and over the southern edge of Springfield.  The twister was headed straight for her family's neighborhood.

"We got ready to turn onto Woodland, and we couldn't get through with all the lines and trees and everything down.  I remember seeing the church gone," Mooneyham said.

Reedemer Lutheran Church, just around the corner from her house, had been flattened.  Dan Magnus was the youth pastor back then.  He was holding an event for teenagers that night.  Miraculously, the event was away from the church.

"It just looked as if a bomb had been dropped.  You've seen pictures of war-torn countries and cities; that's the way it looked back there," Magnus said.

Around town, 55 homes were destroyed, many of them just south of Redeemer.  The storm caused millions of dollars in damage.  Every student in Magnus' ministry survived; they were safe on the other side of Interstate 44.

"The good Lord, He was just watching out for us, and I told the kids that, and it's just a phenomenal thing.  It's just amazing the power of God," Magnus said.

Magnus' wife Mary still serves in the church school. 

"The next morning, coming here was very traumatic for everybody, because it's your church, and it was just flat," she said.

Mary Magnus said the tornado became a defining moment for the congregation.  Members of the church assembled the next day to clean up the neighborhood and rebuild.  Now a cornerstone, with the date April 29, 1983, serves as a reminder.

"God's ministry still goes on," Magnus said.

While the storm, five miles long and 600 hundred feet wide, may have knocked down a church and homes, it didn't take away their resolve to rebuild and move forward as a family.