Earlier this month, Joe Stager was helping his fellow coworkers close down their Barnes & Nobles store in Wilkes-Barre Township, Pennsylvania. Though it was raining heavily that night, it seemed like any other shift for Stager, who is the manager of that branch.
The workers had heard alerts of a storm coming, but this happens so frequently in the area that none of them thought anything of it.
But as the rain kept getting louder, Stager became more concerned.
It wasn’t long before the storm blew out the side window of the store.
“All of a sudden, it just went to a whole other level,” Stager told Times Leader about the storm.
The store’s ceiling tiles started coming down; it wasn’t just like “any other storm” anymore.
In fact, the storm was a tornado sweeping through the area at speeds up to 130 MPH.
Things became dangerous real quickly, and upon realizing this, the manager knew that he had to act immediately.
And thus, he sprung into action.
Stager grabbed a co-worker to save her from falling debris, and told everyone to get under an information counter for cover.
“It was so surreal,” Stager said.
While a different co-worker called 911, the manager went to the back of the store so that he could get his phone. When he got to the back, he expected to see a door with an emergency light on it.
But the wall and door had been completely ripped off from the strength of the storm.
Not only that, but the ceiling in the break room was coming down as well. However, through the debris, Stager successfully got his phone and his keys as well.
Stager returned to the front of the store and led his coworkers to escape the building unharmed.
The building had been damaged by the storm, but all that mattered was that everyone made it out safe. And all his co-workers credit him with helping that happen.
“The way he acted during an incredibly scary time is amazing and heroic,” co-worker Patrick Abdalla said.
“I don’t think anyone could’ve reacted better than he did,” Madeleine Alves, another co-worker of Stager’s, told NEWS4USA.
Stager himself acknowledges that luck was involved, and after surveying the damages in the area, it’s clear that things could’ve been a lot worse for them.
“It really hit us afterward how lucky we were,” Stager said.
If anything, the situation reminded him of how important it is that he’s in good health, for it allowed him to help save his co-workers on that day.
There was a lot of room for error given how many employees were in the store at the time, but thanks to Stager, everyone will be ready to go back in once the building is fixed. Anyone whose shift coincides with Stager’s will definitely be in good hands.