What Losing My Home in a Tornado Is Teaching Me About God’s Goodness
On May 22nd, 2019 the unlikely happened. Our home was destroyed by a tornado.
It was just after 11 pm. My husband Mitch and my four children were already in bed. I was sipping coffee at my desk doing some work when my phone buzzed. It was a generic tornado warning alert. I went to the window, opened it, and listened carefully. I could faintly hear sirens in the distance.
My husband was still awake, so we quickly conferred and decided together to wake the children and bring them into our master bathroom. Although there’s not a true interior room in our brick home (even the bathroom has an exterior wall and small window), it was our pre-determined “safest room.”
While Mitch tried to find information about the weather on his phone, I entered the room my three older children share (ages 4-8) and announced what was going on.
Two of them were sleeping and unable to wake up. My oldest daughter Clara accompanied me willingly as I lugged 6 year old Matthew into the bathroom and deposited him on the floor. I then headed to the nursery to retrieve my infant daughter Grace, only to discover that Matthew had gone back to his bed.
By this point, we still had two sleeping children in their beds. Mitch was still trying to find information on his phone. The power cut out, and we began to hear a low hum. It sounded as if the air conditioner was kicking on, but that was impossible.
Suddenly, our eyes locked. We knew it was really happening. Mitch turned and ran for the children’s room, while I held Grace and put my arm around Clara’s shoulders. In disbelief she asked, “Wait, is this real?”
“Yes, it is!” I replied, and began praying for us in a loud voice, over what had quickly become a roar in our popping ears. I asked for God’s protection, and I told Him we trusted Him. I surrendered my life to Him again in the moment, and the lives of my family. It was scary. But it was holy too.
Then the freight train hit.
I looked up in amazement to see the ceiling over my head in tact. We were unmoved, not flying hundreds of feet through the air as I had envisioned. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and disbelief.
My husband came staggering into the room with a bundle. He yelled for us to get in the tub. It was unexpectedly full of glass, but we did it anyway. He was bleeding but told us that he was okay.
In the bundle was my 4 year old daughter Emily wrapped in her blankets and pillows. She was unhurt. I grabbed her nearest arm and bent it for confirmation. We later learned Mitch had been sprinting through a doorway when the tornado hit. He was lifted and thrown side to side, falling forward, but was able to protect Emily who still had not woken up. The back of his neck was full of glass shards and his arms and legs were scraped.
At this point, only one family member was unaccounted for. Matthew.
Mitch ran back through the darkened house, barefoot through the glass and debris, screaming Matthew’s name and coughing in the dust filled air. For one terrible moment, there was silence. He coughed and screamed again. Then, we heard a cry. From our huddle in the bathroom, I knew he was alive.
After another moment, Mitch returned with Matthew in his arms.
He was completely, (miraculously) unhurt. We later learned that the house beyond the wall he was sleeping against was gone. It’s contents were all over the fields surrounding our home. The window over his bed was shattered, the roof overhead removed, and his wall cracked and bowing in. But God laid His hand of protection over my precious son and spared him.
We knew we needed to get the kids to a safe place. Thankfully we were able to use our phones to call family members. What we didn’t know was that power lines were down blocking the roads in all directions.
After a while, my dad found a way into the factory parking lot that adjoins the property on which we live.
He helped us hike out through the field.
In that moment, we were a funny sight, fleeing through the darkness in our pajamas, pulling a string of whimpering kids’ behind us. Once at the parking lot, we emerged into a group of factory workers. They were standing around a large tractor-trailer that was overturned with another trailer thrown on top of it. I didn’t realize at the time that there was a man was trapped inside waiting for emergency help to arrive. We later learned that he suffered a spinal cord injury.
We piled into my dad’s truck and made our way slowly back to my parents’ home. They also had no power, which, in the country, means no water either. So, we put our frightened kids into bed coated with a dusting of fiberglass insulation and dirt and told them to go to sleep. After a long while, they did.
The adults however, could not sleep. We were all too stunned. My dad spent the night getting his generator up and running. Mitch spent the night ill from shock.
The Next Morning
As soon as the gray light of dawn began to softened the darkness, Mitch made his way back to our home. His brother and another friend were already there, taking it in.
He grimly surveyed the damage, collected some clothing and immediate necessities for our family and brought them back to us.
When he returned again at 10:00 am, he was greeted by a long row of parked cars in our driveway. People were spontaneously showing up everywhere with chainsaws and sheeting and tools, jumping in to help us bring any sort of order to the chaos.
Cases of water, gatorade, snacks, packages of work gloves appeared seemingly out of thin air.
A few hours later I joined them at our demolished home. I decided to take a video to chronicle this part of our family story. I later shared them on my personal Facebook page to let friends and family know what was going on. They were widely viewed, so I wanted to share them with you as well.
We are praising God for His protection in this storm.
We are thanking Him for the love and support we have received. There have been so many stories of God’s provision and generosity and love of His people.
Seventy families were displaced in our community. Multiple homes and apartments and other property were destroyed. Yet by God’s grace, there were no fatalities.
By God’s grace, we managed to find a rental home that is comfortable for us, and right here in our community. Our insurance will pay for it.
By God’s grace, our friends and family have donated furniture that exactly meets our need.
By God’s grace, we have been lavished with monetary donations, gifts of clothing, gifts of meals, gifts of household items, gifts of prayer, gifts of the difficult labor of putting the pieces back together.
As unappealing as it is to go through a crisis, it’s almost been worth it to see the Body of Christ in its glory –and to see that we are loved. It has been truly precious.
We know we’ve been prayed for; we can feel it in our souls. And although we may have lost some stuff, and this might not have been what we had planned, we clearly see God’s mercy in every step and we are praising Him for His goodness towards us.
In His grace,
Photo by Imago Dei Photography.