Jefferson City man opened his home to neighbors during tornado, likely saved their lives

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – A pristine mobile home neighborhood near State Route 54 was directly in the path of the tornado that ripped through Jefferson City.

If it weren’t for a neighbor willing to share space in his stone house next door, many of the folks who lived in those mobile homes could have been killed.

“Every time a new couple moves into the trailer park, I always go and offer them my help and friendship,” Paul Smyer said. “I tell them any time there is a bad storm, they are free to come to my home.”

It's an offer that at least half a dozen of Smyer’s neighbors took advantage of as the sirens bared, warning about what was coming.

“It didn’t sound like a freight train. It sounded like a big whoosh,” said Smyer’s wife Janet, who didn't quite make it to the basement.

The tornado mangled the mobile homes next door, many of them now gone. Parts and pieces in trees and as far away as a half-mile from the mobile home park.

With her neighbors safely in the basement, Janet Smyer hunkered down in the hallway next to her kitchen.

“And then you heard glass flying and furniture flying and the roof falling,” she said.

The first thing Paul Smyer did after the tornado passed was find the cross that had been in his front yard and put his American flag back up.

“I am just a good American, a retired veteran,” he said. “I lived off the government for 22 and a half years, and it is time to pay back a little bit. That is the way I look at it.”

Many people have volunteered to help with the lean up efforts in Jefferson City, but officials ask that those who want to don’t just show up.

Instead, call 211, the American Red Cross or the United Way to put your name on the volunteer list.

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