By Sgt. Jon E. Dougherty, 70th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentMay 27, 2011
JOPLIN, Mo. (Army News Service, May 27, 2011) -- Some people would call him a hero, but to hear Spc. Jeffrey Price tell it, he was just doing his job.
Price, a heavy equipment operator for the 294th Engineer Co. Missouri Army National Guard, from Carthage, helped rescue dozens of people following the deadly storm that left hundreds dead or injured and much of the city of nearly 50,000 people in ruins, May 22, 2011.
Price was working in the automotive department at the local Wal-Mart when the deadly tornado struck that flattened area homes, destroyed businesses and gutted St. John's Mercy Hospital.
Moments before the tornado touched down, Price said store employees and more than 100 customers were told to gather toward the rear of the store. Upon impact, Price said portions of the building - its roof, some walls and fixtures - were blown away.
"It was like a pop can crinkling. It's the only way I can describe it," he said. "The beams that go across the roof actually started bouncing off the concrete. The next thing I know, the roof is gone, and we're lying there in a pile of rubble."
The store was completely destroyed, but for Price, his job was just beginning.
"We waited about 15 minutes or so after the twister passed before moving because it had started to rain and hail very hard," said Price. After that he and his supervisor - a former Marine - began to look for ways to get victims out.
Price said it didn't take long for the duo to find a small opening in the collapsed roof. Being the smaller of the two, the specialist made his way through the small hole and prepared to help others to safety.
Before he knew it, Price said he had helped 50 to 60 people through the opening, across the damaged roof and down a collapsed wall to safety.
"Men, women, kids ... I actually had the pleasure of pulling out a three-to-four-week-old infant," Price said. "I felt the baby move - I didn't look at it - but I felt it move, so I just handed him to another person."
At some point during the rescue, Price said his fiancee in their hometown of Sarcoxie sent him a text message informing him that she and his 4-month-old son were okay, which he said took a load off his mind.
Two hours after the tornado, he was called up for emergency duty by the 294th.
Though Price was in the right place at the right time to help victims of the city's worst twister in generations, he is reluctant to consider himself a hero.
"I don't know if I'd go that far," he said. "I mean, I was just doing the best I could to get people out."
He said a lot of people "just got out and went on their way, and I don't blame them - it was scary."
But, he added, he and his Marine boss felt compelled to help.
"We just jumped right up after it happened and started looking for a way out," Price said.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com.