News

‘Twist(er) of fate’ saved family’s lives

1999 RHS homecoming queen spared from deadly Joplin storm


Scott, Chasity and Madden Jensen were headed for this Joplin Home Depot May 22 when they cut their shopping trip short and went home. This is what it looked like afterwards. Scott, Chasity and Madden Jensen were headed for this Joplin Home Depot May 22 when they cut their shopping trip short and went home. This is what it looked like afterwards. Rockdale native Chasity McCoy Jensen was headed for Home Depot on a sticky Sunday afternoon when her husband, Scott, decided they’d better turn back.

So the family—Scott, Chasity and five-month old Madden—did exactly that.

Chasity believes it saved their lives.

The Home Depot was in Joplin, Missouri. It was May 22.

As the Jensens were returning home to Liberal, MO, 10 miles away, a deadly F5 tornado, three-quarters of a mile wide and with 200-mile-per-hour winds, slammed into the Home Depot.

Seven people died and dozens were injured. In all, 153 persons died in Joplin.

ROSES—“We had been shopping just a couple of blocks away that afternoon and Home Depot was our next stop,” she said.

“I wanted to go there very badly because we were planting roses and I needed to get some things,” Chasity said.

“You’ve got to understand being under a tornado watch is no big deal here. It happens all the time in the Joplin area,” she said.

But Scott Jensen had been trained as a weather spotter, looked at the sky and started to believe this afternoon was going to be anything but normal.

“Almost out of nowhere, Scott looked at me and said ‘I think we should head home’,” Chasity recalled.

They did. “As we headed north toward our home the whole city, about the size of Bryan-College Station, was shrouded in darkness, like night had fallen four hours earlier,” she said.

“We were pelted with rain, hail and blinding wind,” she said. “We pulled over to the roadside, waited until it passed and went home. We had no idea what had just happened.”

BODIES—At home she got a frantic phone call from her sister, former Rockdale resident Meghan Dellerman.

“She was crying, almost hysterical,” Chasit y recalled. “ I thought she was overreacting. She wasn’t.”

Meghan and her boy friend had been looking for the Jensens in tornado-ravaged Joplin, not knowing if they were dead or alive.

“About the first thing they saw were bodies being loaded into vehicles,” Chasity said. “So, of course, they were pretty scared.”

AFTERMATH—The Jensens’ home was not touched and they’ve spent the last eight weeks helping their friends “find out what was left of their lives.”

Chasity praised many persons in Rockdale for assisting the residents of the Joplin area in the ensuing days and weeks.

“Thanks to Milam County 4-H, Rockdale Federal Credit Union, John and Yvette McCoy, Catherine Praesel and Melissa Miller for all of your efforts,” she said.

“There are so many others who answered the call to help and give anonymously,” Chasity said. “Your kindness and philanthropy will not be forgotten.”

She is a 2000 graduate of Rockdale High School, was 1999 RHS homecoming queen and was head RHS cheerleader her senior year.

Chasit y went on to earn a degree at Texas A& M. She has lived in the Joplin area for the past eight years.

“I’ve been blessed to have lived in both Rockdale and Joplin where faith, family and community are the pillars on which we raise our families,” she said.

HE A RT-WR ENCHING— Chasity related one heart wrenching story from the day after the tornado:

“I loaded my son into the truck along with everything we had in the house that we could spare and we just began driving around, giving people rides and handing out food and water.

“I saw an elderly couple sifting through what was left of a small home. I asked if there was anything I could do.

“They spotted Madden in the back seat and asked us to wait. We did and the man returned with several boxes of diapers.

“ He gave t hem to me and asked if I would take them and give them to someone in need. I assured him that I would.

“He told me they had belonged to his grandson who ‘would not need them anymore.’ The boy had been Madden’s age and didn’t make it through the storm.

“All I could do was grab the man and hold him and hug him as we prayed there in the street.

“As I silently counted my blessings.”


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