Joplin hospital treads on through destruction

JOPLIN, Mo. - Even in the midst of miles of rubble, St. John Regional Medical Center stands out -- and not just because it's still standing. With virtually every window shattered, the top two floors taken out -- it looks like a bomb went off inside, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

St. John's ER nurse Angie Abner says it was horrifying when the twister hit.

" It was very...our door and windows were blowing in on us before we could even take cover," said Abner.

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Abner had 20 minutes to race patients and visitors into the hospital's interior hallways in search of safety before the enormous twister tore St. John's apart.

"Things were flying over our heads, just sounding like a bomb, doors were flying off, medical equipment flying over our heads, very scary," said Abner.

Looking at this storm, it's amazing -- 180 patients made it out alive. In the panicked moments after the twister, the most critical patients were rushed to a nearby hospital in ambulances, pickups, and even carried on makeshift stretchers. Others went to triage tents set up close by.

St. Johns officials were forced to turn an auditorium into a makeshift hospital, a battlefield hospital, for all intents and purposes it is St. John's now, and will be for a while.

"We were totally deaf dumb and blind, we couldn't reach police, we couldn't reach EMS," said St. Johns ER doctor, Jim Briscoe.

Dr. Briscoe has worked in the ER at St. John's for 30 years. Now he's tending the sick at Memorial Hall with dozens of his colleagues

"All my staff is here and I mean I had two pregnant nurses that dove under gurneys; I was just so worried that they were hurt, but they showed up, they worked all night long, so it's a testimony to human spirit," said a proud Dr. Briscoe.

More than a thousand people have been treated for injuries sustained in the tornado in Joplin, but there's no way to calculate the pain.

  • Cynthia Bowers

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