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As anniversary of Joplin tornado nears, survivor marks moment with success by opening her own store

OTTAWA, Kan. -- People living in Missouri will never forget May 22, 2011. A massive tornado ripped through Joplin, killing more than 160 residents. Six years later -- one survivor has a bright future.

Step inside the doors at Maggie's Popcorn and Nuts, and they'll sell you some goodies while they tell you stories of survival. Mary Raley owns this place, which opened this weekend. She'll never forget six years ago, and being caught in that twister, and fearing for her life. The injuries she sustained left her in the hospital for a long three-week stay.

To look at Raley now -- you'd never know the pain she's endured. Raley was on her way home from work at a local shopping mall -- hustling to avoid the severe weather.

"I went to reach for the handle, and when I did, the wind caught my door and sucked it back and pulled me from the car," she recalled.

Wind from the catastrophic storm blew her a block down the street. She landed on a sidewalk -- where a downed power line left her with third-degree burns on her face. Raley says a chunk of lumber pierced her back -- narrowly missing her spine and liver.

"I still have a horrible time trying to drive when there's fog. If there's really bad rain, that still makes me a nervous wreck," she told FOX 4's Sean McDowell.

Half-a-dozen years later -- Raley has recovered -- having undergone five surgeries on her back. She's gone into business with her mother -- Maggie Burlingame -- opening a new popcorn store in Ottawa.

"She was bound and determined that she was going to survive. She's always been that way," Burlingame said.

"I don't think to myself, I wish that wouldn't have happened, because if it wouldn't have, I wouldn't be here where I'm at," Raley said.

Raley says she tries to center positive life events around the anniversary of the storm. Four years ago, she used that anniversary weekend to get married to her husband. Now, in 2017, her family is opening this store, where she hopes to stand strong.