Harrowing: Tornado Rips Baby From Arms Of His Caretaker

Originally published on April 18, 2011 5:51 pm

Jonathan Robinson could feel the wind from inside his trailer in Dunn, N.C. One of the 62 tornadoes reported in North Carolina over the weekend was headed his way.

He did what came naturally: The 21-year-old picked his cousin's three-month-old baby and ran to a closet. Robinson spoke to NPR's Michele Norris for today's edition of All Things Considered. What happened next is simply harrowing, and we'll let him tell the story:

The force of the winds tore apart the trailer around him and ripped the baby out of his arms. Next thing Robinson knew he was digging out of the rubble.

More than 20 people died because of the storms on Saturday. By some miracle, perhaps, Ayden, the three-month-old, survived. Robinson heard him cry and found that he was dusty and dirty, but without a scratch on him.

Tune into your local NPR member station to listen to the full interview. We'll post the as-aired version of the interview later today.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

This story so easily could've had a tragic ending, but Jonathan Robinson joins us now to tell us why. Even with all the destruction in his town, his family has reason to feel grateful. Jonathan, thanks so much for being with us.

JONATHAN ROBINSON: Uh-huh.

NORRIS: Now, I can't tell the story nearly as well as you can, so I want you to take us back to that moment when you actually saw that tornado bearing down on your home. What did you actually see?

ROBINSON: So I get in the closet and try to cover him up, protect him from anything falling on him. The wind just, like, my trailer collapsed and the wind just took him out of my hands.

NORRIS: Took him out of your hands.

ROBINSON: And next thing I know, I was under the rubble digging myself out.

NORRIS: You know, Jonathan, I just have to ask you about that moment, I can't imagine what that must have been like to hold a three-month-old, a tiny little baby in your arms and actually feel the wind suck him out of your hands.

ROBINSON: I mean, it was crazy. I never want to experience nothing like it. And my first instinct is, like, I didn't care about being hurt, you know what I'm saying, or being hit by debris, I just had to (unintelligible) and find my little cousin. That's all that was on my mind.

NORRIS: Now, this three-month-old baby boy, this is your cousin's son, what's his name?

ROBINSON: His name is Ayden.

NORRIS: And you emerged from this pile of rubble and you had no idea where he was.

ROBINSON: I had no idea.

NORRIS: How did you find him?

ROBINSON: I heard him crying, because of the crying. That's the only way I found him, he was crying.

NORRIS: And where was he?

ROBINSON: He was on, like, some clothes and, like, on top of my closet door.

NORRIS: And when you saw him, what condition was he in? Was he injured?

ROBINSON: I mean, he was all dusty and dirty, but he had no scratches on him. He wasn't bleeding or nothing. He was just crying. And I picked him up and I took him to a neighbor's house.

NORRIS: And then did you get him to the doctor or the hospital? Did they check him out?

ROBINSON: Yeah, the ambulance came by, and they checked him out. He did fine. He was responding and everything. Smiling. And not one scratch on him. Not scratches.

NORRIS: Are people now coming back to the community trying to figure out if they can salvage something? Are people still looking for folks who are still missing at this point?

ROBINSON: At this time everything is clear right now. Like, four people that was, like, majorly injured or died. But, like, everybody can come back and, like, get their valuables, what they can (unintelligible). You know what I'm saying? What's good, what's left in good condition you can get.

NORRIS: You know, after everything that you've been through, I am betting that you and Ayden will probably have a special connection for life after going through this.

ROBINSON: I'm hoping, we, I mean I already felt that special connection between us. But after something like that, yeah, I hope so, forever.

NORRIS: Jonathan Robinson lives in Dunn, North Carolina. He was talking to us about a fierce tornado and an incredible rescue during this weekend's storms. Jonathan, we're glad you got out safely. Thanks for making time for us. All the best to you.

ROBINSON: All right. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.