Tornado survivor shares experience in the eye of the storm
By Kristen Johnson, Multimedia Journalist/ Weekend Anchor - bio | email
WAYNE, NE (KTIV) -
WAYNE, Neb. (KTIV)- October 4th, 2013 is a day many of our viewers will never forget. That's when several strong tornadoes tore through Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Despite all the damage, only one person was severely injured.
Tuesday, for the first time, John Dunning shared his survivor story.
He was driving back from Sioux City with colleague Michael Anderson. The pair had just flown in from a conference in Chicago. Anderson's wife warned them of the tornado warning during their drive. Dunning and Anderson headed straight for the Wayne State College campus, to make sure their offices were secure, keeping their eyes to the sky for any signs of bad weather.
"Neither one of us saw it. It was rain wrapped. It did not look like any tornado I had ever seen. We drove right into it. We knew we were in trouble when we saw pieces of building flying across the highway. I drove us into a ditch and bailed out of the truck just as the windows imploded in the vehicle,” said Dunning.
Amidst the flying debris was a dumpster. It crushed John Dunning's left side.
He suffered is a collapsed lung, broken ribs, “… a concussive skull fracture that drove part of my skull into my brain. I had two pieces of wood impale my leg," Dunning listed off more than a dozen injuries.
Dunning was put into an induced coma for twelve days. The road to recovery was sometimes scary.
"I had to consciously make the decision to breath for the next few minutes to make it through the night,” said Dunning.
However, he remembers waking up and, "Opening my eyes and seeing my wife, and I mouthed the words, 'I love you. That was a sweet moment, because that was her first time of knowing that I was there, inside,” recalled Dunning.
Dunning was allowed to visit home for Thanksgiving. It was the first time he'd seen Wayne since that EF-4 tornado tore through the town's business park. He says things felt odd and out of place.
"It's really tough to navigate an area of town that you've driven through for 20 years when there are no landmarks anymore,” said Dunning.
Dunning was welcomed home, for good, on January 10th. His colleagues on campus, where Dunning serves as the school's Chief Information Officer, staged a small celebration.
"I think everybody should get a homecoming parade at some point in their life," Dunning joked. "It really made coming home be about coming home," he said.
It’s that support that he's come to count on and appreciate.
"The outpouring of love and support, and prayer, and good thought. The visits, and cards, and food, and just support in every way imaginable, has been mind-blowing."
Dunning came back to work part-time January 20th. His first business trip is scheduled for later this month. He's headed back to Chicago, a trip, he says, he's looking forward to.
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