JOPLIN, Mo. - The tornado took windows from his house and part of his roof, but Jessy Ford wants it known that it's not taking him.

He's 88 and bought the place for $2,500 when he and Barbara got married in 1948.

"I'm not leaving," he said yesterday on his front porch as he took a break from cleanup. "This is our home. Where would we go?"

Hundreds if not thousands of people in this torn-apart city say the same thing. No roof, no windows, no lights, no matter - they're staying put.

These "refusers" live in neighborhoods fringe to the area flattened by Sunday's F5 tornado. Theirs is a land of blue tarps, plywood, chainsaws and rugged resolve.

They could go to a shelter, but they worry about looters, they worry about rain, they worry about their things. They seemingly believe they can keep their home if they are there to hold the walls.

As one woman said, "If we leave, we'll have nothing to come back to."

Kevan Cole and his wife, Tonya, have three children ages 14, 13 and 11. They lost windows and lots of shingles.

"I've got leaking up top and flooding in the basement," Cole said yesterday. "We're flushing the toilet with buckets of rainwater. No shortage of that. But we're OK. We don't need power.

"Plus, we don't want to take up shelter space from someone who needs it more than us."

There is a beauty on these ugly streets. Neighbors share. They help one another. They cook on grills because there is no electricity, and they invite others to share a bite.

Cars and trucks cruise debris-strewn streets offering cold water and sandwiches to those trying to dig out. Volunteers help with whatever.

And rescuers refused to be deterred from their efforts to find survivors, even as the death toll rose yesterday to 125 with 900 injured.

"We never give up. We're not going to give up," City Manager Mark Rohr said at a news conference. "We'll continue to search as we develop the next phase in the process."