Joplin tornado: Two amazing survival tales

As rescuers in Joplin, Mo. race against time looking for people buried in the rubble left behind by the mega-tornado that roared through Sunday, incredible stories or survival are being told.

Like that of dozens of people in the local IHOP, and of a mother who covered her young son with her body and held on for dear life as their home collapsed around them. The light from her cell phone led rescuers to them.

It was quick thinking by Bill White that's being credited for enabling the 30-40 people in the IHOP to make it out alive.

White told "Early Show" anchor Chris Wragge his wife was on top of his little (grand)daughter, and he was on top of both of them as the twister passed. One of White's daughters huddled with her boyfriend in the walk-in refrigerator. Some of the diners took refuge in the freezer.

Bill Lant, who was there, says he "could hear my wife and granddaughter praying at the top of their lungs."

When it was over, the restaurant walls were gone, the kitchen wrecked. But everyone survived with barely a scratch.

White first spotted the tornado coming, and herded everyone to the back in the nick of time.

"I keep telling Bill he's a hero," says Lant. "His daughter told me he doesn't like that, and I said, 'OK, let's just call him a very brave gentleman with not much hair, and she thought that was a better deal."

Heather Marsh has similar feelings of relief, remarking to Wragge as they surveyed the ruins of what was her house, "God, I'm lucky to be alive!"

Marsh and her 8-year-old son, Hayden, rode out the storm in a tiny hole. She pulled a blue blanket over them as the tornado tore through their home, dropping it piece-by-piece on top of them.

"I hung onto him," Marsh recalled, crying, "and you hear the front door just blowing open and the windows just crash in towards us."

Buried alive under the rubble, she sent text messages to everyone she knew.

Her voice cracking, Marsh told Wragge the messages said, "'Help us, help us; we're trapped,' just giving them my address. And you could hear everybody around you just yelling.

" ... Finally, we start hearing neighbors walking around, and they're like, 'Anybody out there? Anybody out there?' And we just started screaming, 'Help us, get us out -- we're in the bathroom."

It was the light of her cell phone -- that faint glow -- that led to their rescue.

"And so they knew where we were, and they just started pulling debris out, and just the sweetest breath of air came towards us, and I just breathed in as deep as I could."

Marsh was about to reinsure her home, but hadn't completed the process, but says she's just happy to be alive. She's living with her mother for the time being.

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