Photo shows Missouri sisters sheltering in bathroom ahead of twister

PICTURED: Haunting snap of smiling young Missouri sisters sheltering in bathroom moments before tornado ripped through family’s home and killed one of them

  • Annistyn Rackley, 9, died when a tornado ripped through her family’s Missouri home and carried her dozens of yards through the air into a field
  • Her parents and two younger sisters were also flown in the storm. They were injured but survived
  •  The 9-year-old girl is among at least 88 people who were killed in the swarm of tornadoes that ripped through five states and caused widespread devastation to entire regions
  • The death toll from the storms – which comes from data reported by each state – is expected to rise as rescuers continue to search through debris
  •  Kentucky – which was the hardest hit state – had 74 confirmed fatalities, including a two-month-old girl 
  • President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Kentucky and intends to do for the other impacted states, if needed
  • He will be traveling to the state on Wednesday to survey the damage 

The heartbreaking photo of a Missouri mother’s three daughters seeking shelter in the bathroom of their family revealed the final moments they spent together before a tornado ripped through the house and killed the eldest.

Annistyn Rackley, 9, died when the twister splintered their Caruthersville home, carrying the family members dozens of yards through the air into a field where first responders found them in mud. The 9-year-old girl is among at least 88 people who were killed in the swarm of tornadoes that ripped through five states and caused widespread devastation to entire regions.

‘Their house is splintered,’ Annistyn’s great-aunt, Sandra Hooker said. ‘There’s debris strewn forever out in the field, and so they were sucked up into the tornado.’

The other family members were injured but survived.

The middle child, Avalinn, 7, who told doctors she flew around ‘in the tornado,’ has broken vertebrae in her back and is expected to undergo surgery Wednesday.

Mother Meghan Rackley, 32, suffered a brain injury, large cut and several broken bones. The family is asking the community to keep her in their prayers.

Father Trey Rackley, 37 – who suffered cuts and bruises – and the youngest daughter, Alanna, 3, have been released from the hospital. 

Towns remain in utter destruction as volunteers and workers continue to rummage through mountains of rubble and debris Tuesday morning searching for those trapped by the storms. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, displacing families ahead of the holidays, and communities remain without power, gas or running water.

The death toll from the storms – which comes from data reported by each state – is expected to rise as rescuers continue to search through debris.

Kentucky – which was the hardest hit state – had 74 confirmed fatalities, including a two-month-old girl, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday. He cautioned that figure ‘is fluid’ and ‘will change.’

President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Kentucky and intends to do for the other impacted states, if needed. He announced Monday that he is traveling to the state on Wednesday to survey the damage.

A Missouri mother took a picture of her three daughters seeking shelter in the bathroom to prove they were in a ‘safe space’ just moments before a tornado ripped through the family home and killed the eldest, Annistyn (shown holding her doll)

Annistyn Rackley, 9, died when the twister splintered their Caruthersville home, carrying the family members dozens of yards through the air into a field where first responders found them in mud (Pictured left to right: Annistyn, 9, Avalinn, 7, Alanna, 3, and their parents, Megan and Trey, in Arizona)

Annistyn is among at least 88 people who were killed in the swarm of tornadoes that ripped through five states and caused widespread devastation to entire regions (Pictured: Storm damage in Mayfield, Kentucky on Dec. 12)

Trey and Meghan Rackley and their three daughters sought shelter in a windowless bathroom in their southeast Missouri home, which they just moved into earlier this month, as storms raged across the middle of the country. 

To prove they were in their ‘safe space’ with the storm approaching Friday evening, Meghan texted her aunt, Sandra Hooker, a photo of the three in and next to the bathtub, smiling. Fifteen minutes later, the twister carried the family, tossing them in a nearby field.  

The nine-year-old, since infancy had been battling a rare liver disorder in which bile ducts don’t develop properly, was remembered as being full of energy and delighted

Emergency responders located the family and took them to a nearby hospital where Avalinn told doctors: ‘I was flying around in the tornado and I prayed to Jesus to take care of me, and he spit me out – and the tornado spit me out into the mud.’ 

Hooker said after a prayer vigil Sunday, searchers in the field near the Rackleys’ house found the doll that Annistyn was holding in the photo. 

Hooker said it was Annistyn’s favorite, and she called it Baby MawMaw. 

‘They brought Baby MawMaw to me, and I’m cleaning her up so that [Avalinn] can have Baby MawMaw,’ she said. 

The community continues to rally behind the family and has created a crowdfunding page to help cover funeral, medical and other expenses.

Loved ones say Annistyn, who since infancy had been battling a rare liver disorder in which bile ducts don’t develop properly, was always full of energy and delighted.

She would often don cute outfits for her cheerleading competitions, practice cartwheels and the splits, and teach herself new TikTok dances.

Hooker called her a ‘special angel.’

‘I would just gasp because she could do the splits all the time, and she would just laugh,’ the aunt added. ‘She loved dancing.’ 

Although the younger daughters and Trey are recovering, Hooker has asked the community to pray for the family, especially Meghan.

‘Our family believes in a God of miracles and that is why we are here today,’ she told KAIT 8. ‘To ask God for a miracle and give us a miracle for Meghan.’    

‘The loss, it is exponential. There are no words,’ echoed Mandi Alexander, a long-time friend of Meghan’s.  ‘Annistyn was bubbly. She was the best kid. She was the strongest kid.’ 

A vigil was held for the Rackley family on Sunday night

The Rackley girls (from left) Avalinn, Alanna and Annistyn posing for a family Christmas photo

Annistyn poses in a recent family photo for Christmas

Tornadoes also roared through both the Missouri and Illinois sides of the St. Louis area, as well as the Memphis, Tennessee, area and parts of Arkansas and Illinois. A candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky (pictured), and an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois, were hit

Tornadoes also roared through both the Missouri and Illinois sides of the St. Louis area, as well as the Memphis, Tennessee, area and parts of Arkansas and Illinois. A candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, and an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois, were hit.

In Mayfield, where tornadoes leveled and destroyed homes on nearly every block, a pregnant mother lost her baby  after being picked up by the tornado.

‘We had a family of five. They were in their house and it was leveled,’ Bobby Waldridge, of Yahweh Baptist Church, told WLWT. 

He said the woman and her four young sons were found in a field behind the house. Her husband was buried in rubble.

All survived but are facing serious injuries.  

‘I’ve seen a lot of things in my life from policing to ministry but this is the worst absolutely the worst,’ Waldridge said.

He added:  ‘The mother, she was pregnant also and she lost the child.’

Through all this tragedy, there is a strong sense of community. Strangers are offering to lend a hand and all are vowing to be there for their neighbors as they learn they’ve lost more than just their homes.

‘A lot of families are not as fortunate as you and I right now being here and just an immense lost of loved ones here,’ Waldridge said.   

Another Mayfield resident shared how she beat death by crawling through a hole to escape her destroyed home and was then reunited with her lost dog.

Deanna Badillo (pictured) says she beat death by crawling through a hole to escape her Mayfield, Kentucky home that had been destroyed by the storms

She and a friend had been sheltering in a hallway when the storm struck (Pictured: Badillo’s home)

 Badillo (left) had feared one of her dogs had been killed in the storm, only to later find out that a neighbor had found the pup and kept her warm and fed until he could locate the owner

Deanna Badillo and her unnamed friend were in the hallway of her North 6 Street home when the twister ravaged through the house, trapping them.

In what she called an ‘out of body experience,’ the pair crawled through a hole and out of the debris. 

‘My friend and I both said we’ve cheated death. I think it’s because of God’s grace and I’m not done on this planet,’ Badillo told WTHR. 

‘I didn’t see anything… but what I felt I can’t explain that to you. I can’t explain what it feels like to stand here and tell you what I went through.’  

She also shared how she feared one of her dogs had been killed in the storm, only to later find out that a neighbor had found the pup and kept her warm and fed until he could locate the owner. 

‘It’s the little things that matter,’ Badillo said. ‘That little dog every bit of her matters.’

She claims finding her dog was a sliver of good news amongst an awful tragedy.   

Although some impacted by the storms, like Badillo, are sharing stories of rescue and hope, many families are mourning the loss of loved ones.

Two-month-old Oaklynn Koon (pictured) died Monday morning after spending two days in the hospital battling injuries sustained during the tornado. Her father, Doug Koon, confirmed her passing on Facebook

The parents announced Oaklynn’s death on Facebook on Monday morning

On Monday, Kentucky parents revealed their two-year-old baby girl had died two days after they tried in vain to protect her and her siblings from a deadly tornado that ripped through Kentucky by hiding in the bathroom.

Oaklynn Koon suffered a stroke, a swollen head and injuries to her neck when the twister hit. Her parents had strapped her into her car seat in the bathroom, put her brothers in the bathtub and covered themselves in pillows but were thrown from the Dawson Springs home and onto the other side of their neighbor’s house. 

Doug and Jackie Koon’s 4-year-old son also suffered injuries during the tornado and required a CT scan 

‘At least I know who will be watching over you up there for me. My dad. God this doesn’t seem real,’ parents Doug and Jackie Koon shared on Facebook Monday, announcing her passing.

The Koons had huddled together in the bathroom with their two sons laying in the bathtub with pillows over them, and Oaklynn strapped into her car seat – figuring that would give her the most protection.

‘Nothing is… scarier than knowing a tornado is heading your way and hearing your kids freaking out, and thinking we are going to die,’ Jackie wrote on Facebook following the ordeal.

‘It’s the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through,’ he told MSNBC on Sunday as his daughter battled for her life. ‘I felt like I was helpless in protecting my kids against it.’ 

When the tornado finally hit her mother’s house in Dawson Springs, Jackie said: ‘We all went flying and ended up on the other side of our neighbor’s house.’

As the storm subsided, Doug told MSNBC he looked up from where he landed and saw his four-year-old son standing there and screaming ‘daddy.’ The boy had a cut on his head, Doug said, and it was bleeding. 

He said he tried to stop the bleeding as he searched for his other family members through the rubble, guided by screaming and moaning. He tried to stop everyone’s bleeding and get them to safety before his mother-in-law’s house was completely destroyed, and then rushed his family to the hospital. 

Pictured left to right: Oaklynn, Dallas, Jackie and Doug Koon

Dallas Koon is pictured with his little sister, Oaklynn

Doug said his four-year-old son had to have a CT scan to ensure the brain bleed does not get worse, and overnight Oaklynn’s, condition worsened.

Jackie posted on Facebook on Sunday that the doctors at the local hospital ran some tests on Oaklynn and ‘they think she has injured her neck veins, which may have caused her to have a stroke.’ 

Doug said ‘machines were keeping her alive’ and that her ‘head swelled really bad’. She was being incubated and transferred to another hospital.  

She passed away on Monday morning and is believed to be Kentucky’s youngest storm victim.

The storm left a trail of wreckage in its wake that stretched from Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed, to Illinois, where an Amazon distribution center was heavily damaged.

The storm left a trail of wreckage in its wake that stretched from Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed, to Illinois, where an Amazon distribution center was heavily damaged

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said the death toll could grow as authorities continued to work around debris that slowed recovery efforts.

Nearly 450 National Guard members have been mobilized in the state, and 95 of them are searching for those presumed dead.

Across the state, about 26,000 homes and businesses were without electricity, according to poweroutage.us, including nearly all of those in Mayfield.

More than 10,000 homes and businesses had no water as of Monday, and another 17,000 are under boil-water advisories, Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett told reporters.

The state was by far the worst struck on Friday night by 30 tornadoes that ripped across the Midwest, killing another 14 people in Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. 

Many residents’ personal belongings were blown up to 130 miles away, and now people are reuniting devastated families who lost everything with pieces of their lives that turned up in unusual places.

Midwesterners have taken to social media to locate the owners of pictures, Bibles, baby quilts, Christmas ornaments and other keepsakes after deadly tornadoes swept across six states this weekend.

A Facebook group, Quad State Tornado Found Items, is flooded with posts detailing items – and even pets – that people have found. In many cases, the owners lived 100 miles away from where their belongings ended up.

A black and white photo of a woman in a striped sundress and headscarf holding a little boy on her lap traveled almost 130 miles in winds that reached up to 140 miles per hour in the storm.

The tornados blew residents’ personal belongings up to 130 miles away, with wind speeds of up to 40 mph


Katie Posten, of New Albany, Indiana, found a family photo on her windshield and was able to locate the Kentucky family it belonged to, 130 miles away in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, through a public appeal on Facebook


Chris Kramer posted that he found a Veterans of Foreign Wars card (left) circa 1993 belonging to a Marion Tolbert, that originated 100 miles away at Matthew Tolbert’s grandfather’s house in Benton. A Polaroid picture (right) of Leigh Ann Carner Morris’ father with his dog was found in Brandenberg, Kentucky, 110 miles away from where it originated in Princeton, Kentucky

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