Army Cadet from Pittsburg State, injured in Joplin twister, puts well-being of others before his own
May 27, 2011
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Lucian Myers figured to help his brother the evening of May 22, filling in for him in a play while he was out of town. The play finished at about 5 p.m. local time in Joplin, Mo.
Forty minutes later, much of the theater where Myers remained afterward crumbled amid the power of an F5 tornado, which ranks among the deadliest in the nation’s history.
The twister’s 200 mph winds blew out the theater’s windows and ripped off the roof. Falling cinder blocks hit Myers, injuring his left arm. When he got back on his feet, two bodies lay near him.
“There was only one time that I panicked. Other than that, it just didn’t seem like it was happening,” said Myers, a Cadet with the Army ROTC program at Pittsburg State University in nearby Pittsburg, Kan. “I just knew there was nothing I could do and whatever happened, happened.”
After that, he knew all he could do was help. Outside the theater, the tornado had virtually leveled Joplin.
Power lines had fallen and blocked the road. The three-quarter-mile wide tornado had cut a path across the metro area, leaving 156 people missing and 132 people dead, according to city officials.
Myers had received no word from his own family, who lived about 30 minutes away in Carl Junction, Mo. He attempted to call his mother, but cell signals were down.
When he emerged outside the theater, his vehicle was gone, nowhere to be seen, possibly swept away by the winds.
“That was all I could do,” Myers said of his actions to help others. “It’s all I could have done. I did what I was supposed to.”
Retired Lt. Col. Dr. William Sullivan and his wife, a nurse practitioner, had been driving in the midst of the tornado without realizing it and arrived to the theater in Joplin just as people emerged from the rubble.
While Myers’ injury was visible, he didn’t behave as if he had been hurt, Sullivan said.
“He was face-down in the rubble,” Sullivan said. “He had injuries to his back, arm and neck, and he was bleeding. He just brushed himself off. I said, ‘I need help,’ and he said, ‘Sir, what can I do?’ ”
Myers spent more than four hours with the Sullivans, transporting wounded people to nearby Freeman Hospital in the back of the Sullivans’ pickup truck. St. John’s, the closest hospital which was across the street from the theater, had been destroyed.
Sullivan said the group made five trips to the local hospital, taking with them a total of about 10 casualties. He said Myers had absolutely no fear, no concern for his well-being, and didn’t even identify himself as a Cadet to Sullivan for about two and a half hours.
“I’m so proud of him,” Sullivan said. “He reminds me so much of the young Army medics that I worked with in Afghanistan " young men and women put in a combat zone for the first time; seeing blood and death for the first time " and how their character matured so quickly.”
Sullivan said seeing Myers’ actions made him proud of the young men and women who have decide to serve in the military or who are looking to make a career in the military.
Capt. Josh Shay said it was “just typical, Midwest good upbringing” that drove his ROTC Cadet to spend hours assisting victims.
“He’s a very quiet, polite individual,” Shay said, who works as an ROTC instructor at Pittsburg State University. “His ideals are what we do. And while he doesn’t look like someone who can keep calm and take control, in this scenario it does not surprise me that he did what he did.”
Myers is one of the top Cadets in the junior class at Pittsburg State, Shay said, and he hopes to one day be an active duty officer " a feat Shay believes he will achieve.
“In the Army, it takes a certain type of individual to do what we do,” Shay said. “In ROTC you have to look for the characteristics in those individuals, and we saw it in Lucian.”