GrubSteakers owner honored for 'heroic' actions during recent tornado
ROCHELLE (WREX) -
Her restaurant has been a fixture on Illinois Routes 251 and 64 for years. On April 9, Ava Mirtoska's popular diner was destroyed.
"I was not believing this was really happening, but every second I was looking out the door and seeing that something was crazy out there," said Mirtoska.
What was out there was an EF4 tornado. Mirtoska said she had a gut feeling she needed to get everyone in her restaurant down in the basement.
Tod Carlock, who is a truck driver, was leaving GrubSteakers when the tornado was coming. He backed his truck up and got back in the restaurant where he said Mirtoska was already telling everyone to head to the basement.
"It was really fast," said Mirtoska. "It was really quick and I was just trying to get everybody down there without being sure what's going on."
The tornado leveled the restaurant. But Mirtoska had gotten all 11 employees, customers and passerbys into the basement.
There, they waited. For about two hours after the tornado hit GrubSteakers, the survivors waited for help. Mirtoska's phone was the only one with service.
"God had given only Ava's phone the power to operate and she called 911," said Raymond Kramer, who stopped by Grubsteakers to seek shelter with his wife during the tornado.
For her actions that night, Mirtoska was honored by the Ogle County Board with a resolution proclaiming Thursday, May 7, Ava Mirtoska Day in Ogle County.
"Had she not been as forceful as she was, the people I talked to that were down in that cellar are convinced there would've been a more tragic ending," said Kim Gouker, Board Chairman, "Events find heroes and she responded when the time came."