Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

November 28, 2013

Ill. tornado survivor searches for missing cards

ST. LOUIS — Annmarie Klein knows she’s blessed to have survived the tornado that leveled her family’s central Illinois home, and she understands most of the things they lost — the Jacuzzi, 60-inch TVs, diamond jewelry, the convertible and other vehicles — can be replaced.

That’s not true for a mint green box that contained three cards — to her, “the most important thing in my house.”

The cards swept away by the Nov. 17 twister that ripped through Washington, Ill., were personalized by Klein’s brother, Paul McLaughlin, with notes for each of his three children before his 2005 death from colon cancer at age 39.

Klein said her brother, a suburban Boston resident who fought cancer for six years, entrusted her to give the cards in sealed envelopes to his kids someday “so that when he was gone they could still remember their dad.”

“I feel like I let him down,” an anguished Klein said through tears this week. “I’d do anything to find those cards.”

The search has consumed her since the storm bowled into her Tazewell County town. The separation she’s experiencing doesn’t surprise Bill Benson, administrator of a Facebook group page set up to rejoin folks in the county with property that was whirled away.

“These storms typically have tops of thousands of feet, so theoretically things could be lofted up to that height and carried,” said Benson, a photojournalist from Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks area. “I’m sure as farmers go to work their fields next spring, things will continue to be recovered unless they’re buried beneath topsoil.”

Klein would rather not wait that long, already frayed by the ordeal that began the Sunday she saw the tornado zeroing in on her home and raced with her husband and children to a basement safe room.

“The kids were screaming. We were screaming,” she said. As the parents shielded the kids, “we just prayed as a family.”

Seconds later, there was silence and sunlight. The Kleins, some still in their pajamas, emerged through their walkout basement and found their home destroyed, the twister having hurled a pickup truck through the living room where the family had been just moments earlier.

“There was that feeling of emptiness, the kind that comes when the kids look at you with faces of complete fear,” said Klein, 41.

A couple of days later, while holed up in her family’s hotel room, she suddenly remembered the cards her brother gave her. They had been individually wrapped in plastic and tucked inside the box.

The cards were sealed in neon pink and yellow envelopes. Each was designated for one of McLaughlin’s children — Brendan, Cameron and Erin, who are now ages 10 to 18.

“My brother told me, before dying, to give those cards to his kids when the time is right — their 18th birthday, 21st birthday, the day they got married,” Klein said. “I hadn’t really decided when the right time was.”

Even without the cards, it’s unlikely McLaughlin’s kids would ever forget their dad, a man who poured himself into raising funds for children’s charities, particularly those benefiting kids with cancer.

McLaughlin, who worked as a Fidelity Investments software analyst, was a skilled hockey player and mentored his children in sports. Not long before his death, McLaughlin got a surprise visit from NHL Hall of Famer and former Boston Bruins player Ray Bourque at the McLaughlin family’s Rockland, Mass., home.

Bourque played hockey in the street with McLaughlin’s kids as their dad, weakened by cancer, played goalie in a chair.

“I’m lucky,” Boston Herald columnist Mike Barnicle quoted McLaughlin as saying in chronicling the day. “I’ve had a wonderful life, a beautiful family, three great kids, my own home.”

It was a bright spot for the family’s life, and now Klein wants to find those cards to ensure that McLaughlin’s children have something more from their father to hold dear.

Strangers have joined her search.

While helping with Washington’s tornado cleanup, Illinois Wesleyan University women’s golf coach Kathy Niepagen spotted Klein desperately searching her property, looking for the cards.

“I felt so bad for this lady. She had such despair in her eyes, and she didn’t care about anything else,” Niepagen recently recalled. “I just gave her a hug, walked away and said, ‘Let’s see what we can do.”’

Niepagen turned to Facebook, posting on the Benson-run “Tazewell County Document & Photograph Recovery” group page an appeal for anyone “from Washington to Chicago” to be on the lookout for the cards. More than 25,000 Facebook users, some as far away as North Carolina, had shared Niepagen’s posting on their pages as of Wednesday.

Klein said she just revealed to her brother’s widow this week that the cards are missing. She said her sister-in-law told her she understood and forgave her.

“I believe we’re going to find them,” said Klein, who’s Catholic and said she prays to Saint Anthony, the finder of lost things. “I have faith.”

 

1
Text Only
National and World
  • Denver has nation’s first county fair to allow pot competitions

    Marijuana joined roses and dahlias Friday in blue ribbon events at the nation’s first county fair to allow pot competitions.
    This weekend’s Denver County Fair includes a 21-and-over “Pot Pavilion” where winning entries for plants, bongs, edible treats and clothes made from hemp are on display.
    There’s no actual weed at the fairgrounds. Instead, fairgoers will see photos of the competing pot plants and marijuana-infused foods. A sign near the entry warns patrons not to consume pot at the fair.

    August 1, 2014

  • House GOP weighs tough new immigration bills

    August 1, 2014

  • Poll: Foreign policy no longer Obama strong point

    August 1, 2014

  • US employers add 209K jobs, rate rises to 6.2 pct.

    August 1, 2014

  • Thousands rally for coal

    The echo of people chanting, “Hey, hey, EPA, don’t take our jobs away” could be heard in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.
    The voices came from about 5,000 United Mine Workers of America (UMW) members and their families along with other unions such as the Boilermakers Union and the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International (IBEW) marching through the streets.

    August 1, 2014

  • West Africa Ebola outbreak tops 700 deaths

    Security forces went house-to-house in Sierra Leone’s capital Thursday looking for Ebola patients and others exposed to the disease as the death toll from the worst recorded outbreak in history surpassed 700 in West Africa.
    U.S. health officials urged Americans not to travel to the three countries hit by the medical crisis:  Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 31, 2014

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

Local News
AP Video
Raw: House OKs Bill for Border Crisis Funds Rare Whale Fossil Pulled From Calif. Backyard Denver Celebrates Pot at the County Fair Escaping Email: Inspired Vision or Pipe Dream? Obama Calls on Hamas to Release Israeli Soldier Hispanic Caucus Slams GOP for Border Bill Shifts Obama: GOP Not Even Trying to Solve Immigration Emory Prepares to Treat American Ebola Cases US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Russell Simmons, LL Cool J Visit Youth at Jail Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian US, UN Announce Deal on Gaza Cease-Fire Despite Moratorium, Detroit Water Worries Remain Faith Leaders Arrested at DC Deportation Protest
Sister Newspapers' News