From the midst of death a fiery explosion that left at least 74 people dead in an Iowa cornfield - a Salt Lake executive witnessed what only could be described as a miracle.

Mick Shannon, president of the Osmond Foundation and founder and president of the Children's Miracle Network, saw survivors of United Flight 232 climb calmly from sections as small as 6 feet long after the DC-10 crashed Wednesday afternoon in a ball of fire."Men, women and children literally walked out into the field; they didn't run. There was no panic," said the Sandy resident, who was visiting relatives Wednesday in his native Sioux City. "Two groups actually gathered out in the field a couple hundred yards from each other on both sides of the wreckage.

"It was quite a sight to see them. The awesome fire, destruction and debris everywhere and these people calmly coming out of the fuselage of an airplane," he said. "It was obviously a gratifying sight - very emotional to see people actually walk out of the debris and go to the terminal and make phone calls."

Shannon was with his brother, Tim, an Iowa State police officer, when news of the pending disaster broke. But it wasn't until later, while driving to Omaha, that he witnessed first-hand the aftermath of the crash.

Stuck in a massive traffic jam on the freeway by the airport - caused by emergency vehicles - he watched people emerge from the shooting flames.

"It was some kind of sight - a very emotional afternoon," he said. "It was either a case that you made it or you didn't."

Survivors, he said, walked away with a few bruises and a few stitches.

As Shannon's brother worked through the night tagging bodies and setting up a makeshift morgue at the crash site, the Utah businessman visited the hospitals where the survivors were taken for treatment.

Having spent the past three days at a corporate meeting in Denver, his concern was that many of his 300 colleagues were on the ill-fated flight.

Like other members of the community, he was there to offer help.

"The community responded well. It was phenomenal how massive and fast the relief effort was," he said. "The community pulled together last night; everyone was offering blood and all kinds of assistance. It really wasn't required, but their intentions were good."

Shannon said Sioux City, population 82,000, was a hub of activity Thursday, as reporters and government officials flew into town.

The Flamingo Inn, where he is staying, became command centers for both United Airlines and the National Transportation & Safety Board.

"There must be 400 government people in town, and they can't get any rooms or rent-a-cars," he said. "It's a small community that has been inundated with government and press."

Other witnesses said that in the moments after the crash, passengers were upside down, belted in their seats. Some freed others. Some could rescue only themselves.

Passengers spoke of the pilot's warnings before Wednesday's deadly crash, but they mostly remembered the impact and escaping the fractured fuselage.

The pilot warned passengers about 20 minutes before the crash that "it would likely be a rough landing," several survivors recalled.

Among the passengers was another pilot, who put a pillow over his head as the plane crashed and cartwheeled three times just off an unused runway.

"We rolled upside down, and inside out and every which way. The plane broke into three pieces, and bodies all over the place, hanging upside down," said Charlie Martz, of Castle Rock, Colo.

"I unfastened my belt and dropped a little ways. . . . Finally I saw what I thought was an open window, but there were flames. I said, `To hell with it, I'm going for it' and I went through the flames. I can't believe it, there were people with feet missing and arms missing. It's the damnedest thing I've ever seen in my life."

In Chicago, 33 tired and somber survivors completed their journey early Thursday morning on a chartered United Airlines flight.

Several wore neck braces, one had a bandaged eye and at least two people still wore dirt- or blood-stained clothing. Police escorted them through O'Hare Airport, keeping reporters away.

Among the survivors' comments:

-Debbie Belliveau, 40, of Michigan City, Ind., told reporters the fire that erupted after the crash "scared us all. Because the fire was really obvious. I mean there was smoke everywhere."

Belliveau said the professionalism of the flight attendants and the pilot's calm voice convinced her that the plane would be brought in safely."

-In Sioux City, Danny Surge of Chicago said when it was apparent the plane was in trouble, passenger Ron Rhode of Marysville, Ohio, went over to sit with 8-year-old Ben Radtke of Prairie View, Ill., who was traveling alone.

The plane "hit and bounced, then flipped and spun around so we ended up upside down. I let go and asked Dan for the kid" and shoved him out, Rhode said.

Ben was shaking but thankful to be alive.

"I thought I was going to die," he said, clutching a United Airlines button and a pair of plastic pilot's wings.

-As the plane filled with smoke after the crash, Cliff Marshall of Columbus, Ohio, saw a way out.

"God opened a hole in the basement, and I pushed a little girl out and grabbed another and kept pulling them out until they didn't come no more," he said.

-David Landsberger, 40, of Caldwell, N.J., said after the plane stopped sliding, "we let ourselves down and started walking toward this large open area at the back of the plane."

Later, Landsberger was unsure of his plans.

"I'd really like to go have a beer and go to bed," he said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. But I'm not going to walk back to New Jersey. I'll probably fly."

-Bruce Benham, 37, a Littleton, Colo., restaurateur, said the evacuation was orderly: "There was not a lot of panic. Only when I got into the cornfield did I look back and see other parts of the plane burning."

-Flight attendant Janice Tyrrell Brown, 47, of Schaumburg, Ill., walked off with singed hair and no injuries.