TODAY   |  May 24, 2011

Incredible stories of twister survival

Amid the death and destruction caused by the massive tornado that pummeled Joplin, Mo., there are incredible tales of survival. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> remarkable stories of survival are starting to emerge. kevin tibbles is also in joplin with details on that side of the story. kevin , good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. the people of joplin were enjoying an afternoon. somer were even celebrating their high school graduation when the skies closed in and many were caught just fighting to stay alive . the tornado that slammed into joplin , missouri, was massive, destructive and deadly. from out of the rubble come taleseses of survival.

>> it was the most frightening 15 seconds of our life. it was hell. it was hell.

>> reporter: in this youtube video you can't see the 20 people who crammed inside a convenience store cooler to escape the twisterer. [ screaming ]

>> reporter: but you can hear their overwhelming sense of fear as it strikes. luckily everyone survived. with much of joplin wiped away, some say it's a miracle anyone survived.

>> the windowse were blowing in. my surround on the bathroom shower was just waving. i thought we were going to be gone.

>> reporter: now people comb throughs what's left of their homeses, trying to salvage anything.

>> a little bit would help us.

>> reporter: the joplin high school took a direct hit. he and the other seniorses graduated and were on the way home when the sky turned black.

>> i told them to pull the car into the dry. we were engulfed in it. glass was busting. our car got demolished.

>> reporter: a group of graduates gatherer around the kitchen table to share survival stories stories. a celebration poster hangs from the window.

>> we were huddled together.

>> ran to the basement. probably ten seconds later we opened the cellar door. there were huge trees down everywhere.

>> reporter: a massive tree helped them, anchoring them.

>> a tree fell on the hood. we're lucky to be alive.

>> reporter: the survivors share one simple but profound sentiment.

>> at least we have each other.

>> that's all that matters, isn't it?

>> yeah.

>> reporter: before this town can begin to come together to grieve and share stories, they must continue to bear the wrath of the weather and there is more expected here. matt?

>> kevin tibbles in joplin , thank you very much.