Joplin couple to wed despite disaster

The struggling town of Joplin, Mo. has a reason to celebrate today - a sliver of sunshine amid the gloom.

Despite the death and destruction brought by a massive tornado Sunday, Aaron Cox and Brooke Watson are setting aside their pain and grief - and going through with their wedding tonight.

When the twister struck, they shot a video of the frantic search for Aaron's sister. Her neighborhood was completely destroyed. They eventually found her, and she was OK.

They even found Brooke's wedding dress, which was still on the rack, surrounded by devastation.

And, miraculously, their church and reception hall were intact.

So, they decided to let the wedding bells ring.

Cox told "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Rebecca Jarvis he and Watson didn't even realize how extensive the damage was at first.

"On the far south side of town, it wasn't that bad," he said. "I mean, it got a lot of hail, a lot of bad winds, but nothing like the rest of the town. So, when we came out of the basement and tried to get a hold of my sister, we couldn't get a call through. So we decided just to hop in the car, go see if we could find her, and I grabbed my video camera.

"I figured I'd get some video of some downed trees or something. We had no idea how bad it was. But by the time we started driving, we couldn't get very far. We had to abandon the car, and then every subsequent block we kept going, it got worse and worse, and you realized, obviously, it was a lot more than downed trees. You know, the entire city was leveled."

Cox's sister's block was in ruins - and he ran by her house at first.

"I actually overshot it by a block," he recalled. "The house across the street from her was on fire. Really on fire, ablaze. And so, I was just trying to get past that house, and so by the time I got to the next block, the people there told me that it was 21st and Kentucky, which was one block too far. So I had to turn back around. And then I really had to concentrate to realize that the house I was looking at was my sister's house. It was unrecognizable."

Watson told Jarvis, who's also a bride-to-be - the wedding wasn't even on her mind at first.

"Your adrenaline's pumping, and you're trying to find family members," she explained. "But once we had kind of figured out that all of our family was accounted for, I realized ... it didn't seem like anything was left in the town. And so I just figured, you know, we'll have to just reschedule or find a new date or, you know, I really did not think that it was going to even be possible.

"But when we ran by the place where my dress was at, I thought I could at least try to save my dress. It's the one thing I can kind of salvage from all of this. And luckily, I was able to get that.

"Our church and our reception hall were (also) spared from any damage. The church we're getting married at is where FEMA is actually set up at the moment. So we're really blessed to not have any damage to the two most important places, as far as the wedding goes."

As for any messages their tying the knot have for Joplin, Cox says, "People have come together, people have really stepped forward, so the message, I don't know if the message has anything to do with our wedding. I think the message has to do with how the city has stepped forward, how people have come together for all of this.

"And then, if you want to tie that into the wedding, the positive feedback and the encouragement that we got from the community and the people involved in our wedding, you know -- people have really set aside their own egos or their own problems, which most of the time are way bigger than ours, and have been extremely kind and forgiving throughout all of this."

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