“The evening of Memorial Day, 2019 started out as a regular night. We had a chill night—my husband Jason and I and Cash, one of my dogs, were sitting on the front porch. We had no idea storms were coming in. Then the skies went dark. When the rain started, I got the dog and cats in, and the patio furniture tied up.
“We went inside, turned on the TV, and the weather started breaking in. The whole screen got red and there was talk about tornado warnings. All I heard them say was Phillipsburg, Troy, Vandalia—where each of my children and my grandkids live. I could tell by the announcer’s voice that they were real storms and tornados, so I started calling and texting my kids. I got them to take it seriously, and they all got to shelter. Not one time did I hear that tornado was coming right at us because I was just terrified for my kids.
“From our living room you can see a big 50-foot tree in my neighbor’s yard, and it was blowing back and forth and touching the ground. Jason opened our side door, saw the rotation, and yelled, “Get in the basement!” And I grabbed Cash by the leash and one of my cats and ran down in the basement and dove on the floor, with Jason right behind me.
“All hell was breaking loose. You just heard big, heavy, thuds. I did not hear the train they talk about, but I heard thuds from things slamming into the house. Then all of a sudden, this fury broke loose and it was just this giant gust of wind, and that tornado came right through. You can’t really see it, but you can feel it. Later I would learn sounds I was hearing was the doors blowing off, the windows breaking and the back of the house blowing out.
“I could see glass and dirt and leaves just coming right down the basement stairs. I had no clue that the back of the house was gone. I had no clue we had just lost everything. Once it was through, it got dead quiet. It was so ungodly dark. I came up from the basement; the door at the top of the stairs was all mangled and the kitchen window was gone.
“I looked to my left and our walls were gone. Our kitchen was in our living room, and our living room was outside. There was so much debris and glass. The microwave looked like it got blown up with a bomb. The stove ended up in the living room, right where we had been sitting 30 seconds before the tornado. And that 50-foot tree was uprooted and now in our yard. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I just cried and cried. My little grandson’s things that I keep as mementos were all gone except for one yellow duck that he made out of paper plates. And I still have that.
“Thank you, Jesus in Heaven, that my dogs and cats were all okay. We just looked around our house and yard. All the cars were totaled. I had a huge breakdown then because I thought, ‘How in the world am I going to keep my animals?’ My mind was trying to do the best it could, but I just kept thinking about my animals. I was thinking maybe we’d all just live in the car. Then I realized there wasn’t a window in anything.
“Around the neighborhood I saw flashlights waving around and people yelling “Is everybody OK? Anyone hurt?’ It was everybody checking on everybody. All you could do was just stand there as a community and just look. Some time later, we saw hundreds of little tiny lights bouncing, getting closer, coming our way. It was rescue crews from all over. We were so glad to see them! I realized I didn’t see my 80-year-old neighbor from across the street and told an officer. He kicked his door in—the bedroom was all caved in. Wouldn’t you know he had slept right through it? He was okay.
“About 5:00 A.M. I just couldn’t sit and look at it anymore. Although we were covered in sweat and insulation and very uncomfortable, somehow we fell asleep in the bedroom that was left, and the animals slept in the bathroom that was left. I remember having that moment where I just stopped everything and I thanked God for my life, for my neighbors and that my kids were safe and that my animals were safe. Even though I was in a home full of big holes, everything that mattered to me was still here.”