SHELBY, Ohio — Like many people in Richland County, Lyle Pheils didn’t expect a tornado in the middle of a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Pheils took his son Tobin, 3, grocery shopping at Cornell’s IGA in Shelby. As cashiers checked Pheils and other customers out, the store’s power began flickering.
Dakota Grosscup, a store employee, waited with Tobin under an awning while Pheils went to retrieve his vehicle to load groceries.
“It was like a huge gust [of wind] and everything just got darker,” Grosscup said. “We kinda looked at each other and it was kinda like, ‘Something’s not right.’ I’m like, ‘I think we should go back inside.’ And as soon as I said that, we could hear the [tornado] sirens kick on.”
Grosscup helped Tobin back inside, as Pheils followed behind. Along with his coworkers, Grosscup calmly led customers through the store and, at the direction of his supervisor, into a milk cooler in the back of the store.
“The hardest part was not knowing,” Grosscup said of the situation. “You don’t know where the tornado is, if it’s coming right at you, and that’s just kind of like, at any second, you know something could come flying through this door and you have no idea.”
Bill Burdge, the store manager, said he was proud of his workers for acting quickly to keep customers and employees safe.
“That’s just the kind of people that live around here,” Burdge said. “They look out for everybody.”
On Tuesday, the Pheils' got a chance to say thank you to their new hero.
“Thank you for helping us,” Tobin said to Grosscup.
“Thank you for saving my little brother,” Bennett Pheils, 6, said.
Lyle Pheils said Grosscup’s quick actions made a bigger impact than he would ever know.
“For us, it made all the difference, and we’re just extremely grateful and wanted him to know as well as the store that he works at and people in the community,” Pheils said.
Grosscup, though, doesn’t think of himself as a hero, reserving that title for first responders and utility workers who have helped in the aftermath of the tornado. He said he thought everyone at Cornell’s, from employees to customers, did a good job maintaining composure and working together.
“Everyone should react the same way,” Grosscup said. “If someone’s in need, you help them out, or especially with a child. You gotta do what’s best for the child.”