Beauty for Ashes on April 27…Part 3

Continued from part 1 and part 2.

Soon after the tornado ripped through the house, the men hesitantly went out to assess the damage. Aaron told me later that he really thought it might be possible that we just lost our roof.  As soon as they opened the door, we could see that the hall and rooms outside the door were filled with debris–sheet rock, insulation and fallen pipes. As they stepped over that and rounded the corner to the stairs, Aaron looked up and saw sky.  The house was completely gone with the exception of a couple of walls. They could also see that the damage was far beyond our house.

Ashton looking down our stairs…the rails were one of the few things standing on the top floor.

 

My mother, who was at the hospital with my Dad, had been trying desperately to call in (they knew from the news that the tornado was headed our way).  We tried to call out as well but by then, cell service was hit or miss.  She finally got through to a neighbor who was with us.

“Everything’s gone”, he told her, “but we’re OK”.

“What about our house?”  she asked.

He told her he would go outside and try to see.

“It’s gone too.  The house, the shop, the barn…everything.”

Details get difficult to recall at this time, but I know our husbands headed out to start checking that we didn’t have gas leaks, fires, etc.

We didn’t know at this point just how extensive the damage was.  I had not even caught a glimpse outside…I was afraid to look. By this time, Aaron reported to me that the valley “looked like a war zone”. “Kelly, you can’t imagine it.  You need to prepare yourself.”

It’s difficult to visualize the extent of the damage of this tornado unless you have seen it in person.  A picture can only capture a fraction of sight at a time. The tornado literally “scalped” the land in about a 1/2 mile swath.  Nothing left standing  in its path…only thousands of broken trees and rubble where there was once houses or buildings.

Soon, one of the sons of our dear neighbors, the Lees, ran to our house–about 1/2 mi. (barefooted, I think) to get help for the rest of his family who was trapped under their house.  He shared later how grateful he was to call out and hear voices coming from our basement, knowing that there was help available for his family.

The Lee’s home, where all 15 members were buried. Fourteen would make it out alive.

The Lees are dear, sweet friends.  They serve themselves empty.  They are always concerned with everyone else, never themselves.  But this night they needed help.

We received a report from another son who ran back to us for more flashlights that his father wasn’t responsive.  My heart sank and I wondered how on earth emergency vehicles were going to get in.

Our husbands and Jesse, an older son who was also a volunteer fire and rescue worker, went to help.  Aaron said later that Jesse proved “super-human” in getting the Lees out.

In the meantime, we ladies stayed with the children trying to comfort them both physically and emotionally.  We feared another storm and had kept the door to the small room closed but it was so hot we finally opened it.  They wanted to go to the bathroom.  There was a bathroom close by, but even to get to it you had to step over debris, in the dark, in the rain. We only had one flashlight (the rest had gone with the men to the Lees).  And of course the water lines were broken.

There were still about 21 of us in the tiny room that we used as our “universal closet”. That would be a blessing because later many of the children would need shoes and coats; the room was full of them. One of the other families had gone to assess their house and see if it would be suitable for the rest of us to stay. Thankfully, while they received heavy damage from fallen trees, the house was still standing and we would later make the treacherous walk there for the night.

Eventually, the men came back.  Aaron told me that our friend, Tom, the husband and father of the Lee family didn’t make it.  It was such a heavy blow on top of all the other emotions.  Adrenaline ran high, especially among the men.  Aaron came into the room, for a moment, and lay prostrate on the floor with his head down.  I knelt down beside him.  He sobbed.  I can’t remember if he said anything but it was as if at that moment, though he knew the night still required much of him, he had to stop and grieve.  He had helped carry Tom’s body from the rubble while some of his children stood looking on.  I’m sure he felt like cursing the scene that wouldn’t even allow a moment to grieve.

It all seemed like too much to take in…and really, as the body’s way of protecting us, though the eyes can see, I don’t think the brain really does take it all in.

Tiffiny, Emily and Jacob Lee were seriously injured and we were very concerned that medical help would not be able to get to them.  They had all been pinned under heavy objects–the girls’ legs and Jacob’s head. There was also concern about their going into shock.

When other neighbors arrived to be with the Lees, our husbands returned to get us out.  Still not having seen the outside, the men described what we were going to have to do.

“We’ve got to walk to the Boyds” (which was only basically across the road, but their drive is about 1/4th of a mile long).  “It’s going to be difficult…there are power lines down everywhere, and trees, and debris.  We’ll have to hold the children and be very careful.”

Hearing this struck fear in me almost equal to the fear of the tornado. Narrowly escaping death makes one feel very vulnerable.  I didn’t want to move.  I literally wanted to hold my children in the floor and not move.

We formed a straight line and every small child was paired with an adult or older child.  I was so thankful for our friends who were there to assist me with my children.  I guess the focus of making it safely to the neighbor’s took my mind off of the mess that awaited us outside. It was dark by now too, so we really couldn’t see the extent of it.

Gary Boyd led in front, and stopped us at each hazard.  In a loud voice so that the back group could hear, he would describe the hazard and tell us the precautions to take.  “You’ll come to a power line overhead. Walk slowly and duck under.”  Then he would stand there and remind each person approaching, showing him the danger.  To my relief, there was a mysterious calmness and we journeyed safely in about 20 minutes.  I don’t recall the children crying very much or expressing fear.  They just did what we told them and I believe the Lord gave us all a supernatural peace.

The Boyd’s home where we stayed the first night…one of the few standing in our area…what a beautiful sight.

Once we arrived safely, the Boyds met us with water and instructions to make our stay there as comfortable as possible. It was “crisis hospitality”. Children scattered over the floor to sleep, and the rest of us tried to rest, intermittently talking to family on the phone, tending to a child’s need, or just staring into the dark trying to soak in the night’s events….mostly aching for Sherry and her children.

I called my brother.  He was the first person “outside” (besides my parents) that I talked to. His words brought the first lift to my spirits. He said, “Kelly, you can’t see it now, but God is going to do mighty things you never thought possible through this.  You’re going to have to pray through it and keep your mind on Him.”

Soon, the bright ray of hope would shine…the hope we thought was impossible…the hope that would begin in the night and grow to overwhelming…a “God kind of hope”.

Read Part 4 (The Conclusion)

36 Responses to “Beauty for Ashes on April 27…Part 3”

  1. Renata says:

    Oh Kelly – you describe the night so vividly. I cannot imagine how it must have been to go through this. Praise the Lord that He uses these times for His glory & purpose.
    Praying for you…
    Renata

  2. Kathy C. says:

    I have been following you ever since I caught a glimpse of what had happened through a mutual blog friend. My heart aches for your family, neighbors and friends, but I do see God through all of this and that sheds so much light and hope. Thank you for sharing your story, for those of us who just cannot comprehend the gravity of it all.

  3. Donna Hebert says:

    In tears..thank you Kelly for taking the time to describe everything. My heart just grieves for the Lee family. Your brother is so right…keeping your mind on Christ..amen.

  4. jen in AL says:

    I am just sitting here crying…so amazed by God’s love and protection. i am so thankful you are writing it down. we love you all so and stand with you and our dear friends as you not only rebuild homes but lives. Love and hugs, jen

  5. brenda says:

    Oh, you have renewed my resolve to pray for the Lee family and the others as well. I cannot imagine what the men were going through. I’ve never seen a tornado or the after effects of one….it must have all been so scary. You were blessed to have neighbors to help each other.

    • Word Warrior says:

      Brenda!

      We just received the handmade dolls and goodies yesterday. What a wonderful, thoughtful gift!! All the children loved their hand-picked gifts. They are all playing gleefully with their dolls as I type this 😉

  6. Thank you for sharing all this with us, Kelly. Your testimony is a tremendous encouragement to me. ♥ ~gail

  7. Tears again for you and your children and the Lee’s. Thank you for sharing so that I can be moved to pray and help those in crisis.

  8. Renee says:

    Kelly, I am believing that God will bring better and greater things out of this than you and your family had and were before. God bless you for bravely sharing what you have with us. I went through Katrina and know the shock and horror when you see what it leaves behind. But, God is good and he doesn’t leave us alone by ourselves. I didn’t have family to turn to after Katrina, but God provided for me and kept me safe. I hope your father is doing well. My prayers are with all of you.

  9. Man, I cannot imagine. I made it without crying until I read your brother’s wise words to you. I am so glad you have a godly brother that God used.

    I cannot imagine what the Lee’s were going through…and still are.

  10. Jessica says:

    I really am speechless….praying for you all!

  11. 6 arrows says:

    This series of posts is really gripping! Every time there’s a new installment, I go back to Part 1 and reread everything through the new post to get a feel for the progression of events you experienced April 27. I know I will never begin to fully comprehend what you all went through that day, but it sure has me on the edge of my chair reading it!

    I loved your description of the “mysterious calmness” as you journeyed to your neighbor’s. I can “hear” the calm just as vividly as I “heard” the children’s screams you described in the previous post. What a beautiful thing that the Lord gave you in that supernatural peace as you journeyed in the dark. He is truly the giver of every good and perfect gift, and I thank you, Kelly, that you acknowledge Him as the source of your hope and peace.

    Looking forward to the continuation of your story! Peace and blessings!

  12. Thank You, Lord!

    What do you need right now? Is there some way we can help? Is there something that would “just be nice to have?” Seriously, we would love to do something tangible.

    • Word Warrior says:

      You are so sweet! Truthfully, the same answer comes to mind that has from the beginning: “I don’t know”. 😉 That is, I can’t thing of any immediate needs. We’ve had everything that we need here in our temporary home provided for that I can think of. Occasionally I have anxiety over refurnishing our new home once it’s built. I don’t know what was salvaged and what wasn’t…it’s all stored (covered with insulation) somewhere. But that’s still down the road. We are in the beginning stages of drawing/planning our house so pray that all the anxieties that come with that would be minimal. There are added “unknown variables” that make planning a bit more stressful than maybe the average house.

      And please pray for Bria. She’s been strong and wonderful and then last night really had a breakdown. My heart aches for my children as they miss all that was familiar to them.

      • 6 arrows says:

        Praying for Bria…what a sweet girl. Thank you for sharing, Kelly.

        Do you have any other specific prayer requests for any particular child? If not, I am still happy to pray for all of you in general. Our Lord in His infinite wisdom knows our every need!

        Much love to all of you. May you feel God’s presence and peace more than ever.

  13. Kim M says:

    Thank you for detailing what all happened. Very scary and mind-boggling!

  14. Kristen says:

    Wow, Kelly. I absolutely cannot imagine this scene. I’ve been praying for you!

  15. Natalie says:

    Thank you for telling us the story with so many details…it is SO interesting…and then to think that it really happened…it’s incredible. When a baby is born…it’s so life altering that it takes a few days to recalibrate. Are you still recalibrating from this? Has it been woven into the fabric of your life now so that it is your new “normal”?…or are you still finding it hard to grasp? You have a lot of curious onlookers “out here” finding it very hard to imagine this whole thing. I’d love to know how long it took for your physical “self” to accept the new reality and move forward (if you have). (hoping you’ll address that in a future post! Waiting with anticipation…)

    • Word Warrior says:

      Natalie,

      That is a very interesting/poignant question. Just yesterday, my husband asked me, “do you still just keep finding it hard to believe this is all happening?” And my answer was “yes”. I’ve heard from almost everyone involved that it “just won’t sink in”. Weird, really, after this long.

      I think I will weave that into the story. Part of the difficulty recalibrating has caused some trying emotional things that my husband and I have had to work through. I would hope our struggles help someone else who may be going through something of a similar nature. Thanks for asking that.

  16. Sommer says:

    Kelly~These posts are so awe-inspiring on so many levels! I can’t get through them without being in tears and putting myself in your shoes. Each day I wish I could do more for you all, but I know that the Lord is moving His Body in such amazing ways…really, your brother’s words were right on I think. Know that you and the Lee’s are often in my thoughts/prayers and I am so very thankful that we can see amazing things through your situation.

    Love,
    Sommer

  17. Blair says:

    I was wondering if you would consider publishing this? I think it would make for an amazing book combined with your children’s accounts & those of your neighbors and husband as well. Reading about your family walking out their faith and not just talking about it could be life changing for soooo many people!

  18. Tiffany says:

    Kelly I am in tears reading this as I imagine being there. Your family and friends are going to save lives from this just by hearing your testimony of faith. We will never always understand God’s ways, I am not sure we are suppose to but it is all for His glory and honor. Thank you for sharing this as I know it brings it all back. God bless you and each and every one of the families affected by all the tornadoes recently.

  19. Milah says:

    Your brother was right, God will do mighty things through this. What I love the most is how God is using yours, and the other three families, (counting your parents,) as a testimony for His Glory. Still keeping you and your neighbors in my prayers. May His Peace be with you.

  20. Perouz says:

    Dear Kelly,
    I am going to struggle to put into words how I feel about your latest blogs. They have proved to be over again that our God is real, He is alive, He makes a difference in His children’s lives. He gives real peace – a peace that the world cannot give. I have cried and cried over your blogs – my father died in February of a heart attack – he went in just as yours did, but he went straight from the ward to heaven. But your strength in the face of calamity and your ability to show how God has helped you as helped me SO much. May God be with you all very very much. I am praying for the Lees family too.

  21. Elizabeth Kamm says:

    Kelly, this is Elizabeth from Kansas. I sent you a dress. Just wanted to see if you got it. Sorry I couldn’t send more but I just felt led to do something really special for you because you do so much for others in this blog. I don’t know you in “real life” but I love you my dear sister in Christ!

    • Word Warrior says:

      Oh, Elizabeth, yes I got that beautiful dress! I wore it when my husband and I went for an overnight stay, another gift from a friend.

      What a precious, thoughtful gift–it is beautiful! You must know that I am about half way through my thank you notes (there are hundreds!) and I’ve actually already written yours. It’s in the “written, but un-stamped” pile! I’m so sorry it has taken me so long to get them written. A month–wow, I’m very tardy.

      Speaking of that, if any of you do not receive a thank you note, please do let me know. In the raucous of everything–including moving, it is quite possible that I have lost track of gifts here and there. Please know that I am deeply grateful top all of you, and many of you gave donations whose names I never knew. May God be pleased to shower you with blessings.

  22. Katy says:

    All that comes to mind when your brother said that is Daniel 9:3.

  23. Elizabeth Sue says:

    No rush dear one, I just wanted you to know how much I love you my dear sister in Christ and wanted something special for you.

  24. […] Ashes” series as of today, and it looks like more is coming.   Part One   Part Two   Part Three Savannah No comments Share stLight.options({ publisher:'', title: 'Kelly Crawford […]

  25. […] Beauty for Ashes on April 27 Part 3 […]

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