Dennis McKinney couldn’t wait any longer.
He stood at the back door, yelling for his neighbor, Kelsey Schroth, to come with her baby, Jayden, to the basement on the night of May 4, 2007. Jayden's father, who was out of town, called just moments earlier, asking if the two could come to McKinney’s basement because they didn’t have one.
“The power was out and it was getting pretty loud,” said McKinney. “When he called, my first thought was, 'It is too late,' but I didn’t want to tell him that. I just said, 'Have her hurry and come in the back door.' ”
It was just McKinney and his daughter, Lindy, at home. His wife, Jean, was with the Greensburg High School forensics team at the state contest in Salina.
McKinney waited as long as he could, until the tornado was hitting. The windows were blowing out of the south side of the house as he ran downstairs. A piece of the drywall took off his cap and caused him to drop his flashlight and stagger. He and 13-year-old Lindy sought protection in the basement bathtub as their home above blew away.
“You could hear the roof ripping off,” said McKinney. "You could hear the walls, as the wood and lumber goes, you could hear it ripping and the bricks blowing away.
“I was scared,” he said, adding it was loud and he was worried about their safety.
Lindy remembers hearing her father coming down the stairs without Kelsey and Jayden.
“He was frantic,” she said. He kept saying, " 'I waited. I waited as long as as I could.’ He felt he left them to die.”
She considered her father a very calm person, and she had never seen him frantic. So she began praying.
Lindy didn’t pray for herself, however. She prayed for Kelsey and Jayden.
“I tell people she is the hero of the whole thing,” said McKinney. “She didn’t once pray for us. She keep telling Jesus to protect Kelsey and her baby.”
Meanwhile, the force of the wind was so strong Kelsey couldn't push the door open to the patio to get out of the house. Her mother, Marla LaCost, who lived in Kinsley, was on the cellphone urging her not to leave.
She went into a closet and with Jayden in one arm she pulled a mattress with the other to the closet door. On her cellphone she was crying to her mother to help her.
"We are going to die," Kelsey screamed, and then the phone went dead. Soon the house was gone and baseball-sized hail was hitting her in the head.
Finally the storm passed and the McKinneys emerged from the basement of their destroyed home. The Schroth home was also completely gone, except for a small pile of rubble.
McKinney’s heart sank.
“My first thought was, 'They are dead. They are blown away,' ” said McKinney.
However, under the debris Kelsey was still cradling Jayden. She dug a piece of insulation out of his mouth. She could hear people's voices above them.
They, in turn, could hear Kelsey calling, “Please help us here. I have my baby here.”
“The pile of rubble was three feet tall, and keep in mind the whole house was gone,” said McKinney.
Greensburg school principal Randy Fulton, who lived nearby, and superintendent Darin Headrick, who sought shelter at Fulton’s home, were out in the yard. McKinney and Lindy yelled at them to help.
Lindy held the flashlight as they dug.
“We started pulling the debris off, and there was this little boy, wide-eyed and not crying at all,” said McKinney.
“I held the baby, who looked up at me with big, scared eyes, but he didn't cry,” Lindy said. “I remember shortly after that I gave Kelsey Jayden.”
At first, they thought the baby had blood on his back, but they couldn’t find a scratch or cut anywhere. They soon realized it was automatic transmission fluid from either the family’s car, which had been in the garage and had flown to the opposite side of the property, or McKinney’s truck, which landed a half-mile away in Royce Zeek’s living room.
Though she was in shock and suffered some minor bruises, Kelsey was OK. Her family arrived on the scene and took them to Kinsley. Eventually, they moved to Hutchinson. Jayden is a fifth-grader at Graber Elementary School. Kelsey is now the mother of Jace Coss, 9, and Brynleigh Harris, 5 months. She is a registered nurse at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center and is planning to become a nurse practitioner.
McKinney said he was excited to see Kelsey and Jayden again. He hasn’t seen them in eight or nine years. They plan to meet on Friday in Greensburg.
Kelsey knows they could have died that night.
"I think Jayden is supposed to become something amazing, and I'm here to see him do that," Kelsey said.
“To me, it is just a thrill to watch kids grow up and see how she is doing and see Jayden," McKinney said.
Likewise, Jayden is looking forward to meeting McKinney.
"I'm going to give him a big ol' hug and say, 'Thank you,' " Jayden said.
“I always thought miracles were something other people got to see,” McKinney added. “I genuinely believe God protected them.”