Oak Grove neighbors recall the decisions that saved their lives

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OAK GROVE, Mo. -- The EF-3 tornado that touched down in Oak Grove Monday night left a seven-mile swath of destruction and homes that were completely destroyed.

FOX 4's Shannon O'Brien was at 25th and S. Broadway, where some of the worst damage was sustained.

The residents there acknowledged how lucky their were to be alive.

"Our daughter called and said, 'get in the basement!' and it's happened in the past and you ignore it. We're in the Midwest; that's what you do," said homeowner Rick Parr.

If not for that phone call, Rick and his wife Gina might not be here to clean up after the tornado destroyed their home.

"Gina started feeling the air pressure, and said, 'okay, it's time to go,' and I guess just a couple seconds later it hit," Parr recalled.

The Parrs only made it to the basement stairwell when the tornado hit, with winds estimated at 152 mph.

Rick pointed out exactly where he and his wife were in their home moments before the tornado hit. Those places are now buried under rubble.

"I did go out the back and saw the neighbor's house was totally missing, and then I was afraid for Bruce and Brenda over there," he added.

Bruce and Brenda Johnson managed to survive the tornado. Miraculously, there were no fatalities at all in Monday's storms, but Brenda knows there very well could have been.

"If we had hesitated for even a moment, we would not have made it," Brenda said.

The Johnsons were in the basement as the storm approached. They felt that pressure that everyone in the neighbor said they also felt.

Bruce made the suggestion that they move to the bathroom. Within moments, their home was collapsing around them.

They believe it was that decision that saved their lives.

"Nothing in our bathroom was touched. I had a little plaque in there about faith. It did not move and we did not get a scratch," Brenda explained. "Just going to a basement would never have been enough. Going under the porch is what saved us."

Memories and rubble are all that remain of the Johnson's home where they have lived for 23 years and raised their family.

With a few exceptions, everything is gone, except for their most precious possessions: their lives.

"We knew that God had put his arm around us, and that we were safe, and that we would rebuild from there," Brenda added.

There is a beauty among the destruction, and it's in the friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers that have descended upon Oak Grove to help with the clean-up.

It's something the folks of Oak Grove are saying is holding them up as they come to grips with losing everything.