This is both a terrifying and a heart warming story of a teenager, Steven Weersing who survived the massive tornado that raged through Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011, killing 158 people and injuring more than 1,000.

Weersing survived with cracked ribs and punctured lungs, then developed infectious black mold and flesh-eating fungus that destroyed the skin, bones and muscles on his chest.

His injuries attracted attention for several months after the tornado.

‘At first it felt good because a lot of people came around and wanted to see me a lot,’ he told the newspaper.

But some of them disappeared later on…

Then he had found love. A person who was willing to love him for who he was inside and not just on the outside.

According to the Kansas City Star: “His image of his body in the mirror haunted him.

“I never thought I’d have a normal life because of the way I looked,” he said.

Tara noticed. She liked him.

They weren’t dating at the time of the tornado, but they had known each other since middle school. Their friends had begun to hang out together. It bothered her to see how his brief time in the spotlight was attracting false friends.

“Honestly,” Tara said, “I don’t even think we would have gotten together unless the tornado happened. Our whole paths were —”

Steven finished her sentence. “Kind of connected.”

She used to be wild too, she concedes.

They began dating. “She gave me confidence,” he said.

Five years after the storm, all of life is different for two people with damaged lives who came together to heal each other.

They are happy. They have two daughters, Briella and Bailey. Briella will turn 3 on May 23, one day after the tornado anniversary. Bailey will turn 2 in June.

Steven, on disability, stays home with the girls. Tara works full time as a certified nursing assistant, soon to be a licensed practical nurse, with thoughts of going to nursing school.

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