At approximately 7:05pm on April 16th, 2011 our home was hit by an F3 tornado. Thankfully, we were all at a wedding reception in Williamsburg. A few folks at the reception received news alerts on their phones and rumor starting spreading about a tornado hitting a school in Gloucester. We didn't stress too much about it at the time and a short while later Handsome rounded up the boys to take them home. When he got to his truck and checked his phone, he had DOZENS of missed calls. He spoke with the landlord and found out the roads were closed and the house had suffered damage during the storm. He headed to the base to get a room in billeting for the night. I went to walmart to grab a change of clothes for each of us and necessary items like toothbrushes and diapers. I called my friend Deb and asked if she would go scope out the house and let me know how bad it was. She described the neighborhood as a war zone and I could tell by the tone of her voice that things were not good at the house.
It was the following afternoon before we could get out there and look around. The Sheriff's set up a blockade and were only letting residents into the neighborhood. We had to park a few blocks away and walk because the emergency crews were clearing power lines and cutting up downed trees. Deb's war zone description was accurate and our house was one of the worst hit. Five different trees had fallen into various parts of the house. We had to wait on the chainsaw crew to cut and haul the trees out before we could go into the house. When we could get inside and survey the damage, it was pretty overwhelming.
The next few days are a blur in my memory: sorting what could be saved, hauling things to the dump that couldn't. We had such wonderful support from so many people, it was truly amazing. Friends, co-workers, acquaintances and even total strangers came out to help. Words cannot describe how thankful we are for the kindness everyone showed to us. My fellow military wives did everything from watch the boys, to wash clothes and organize meals. Handsome's command worked with the housing folks to get us into a home right away and Air Force Aid came through with an interest free loan to pay the deposit on the new place. An entire crew from Handsome's office came out to the house and helped us clean, pack and load everything into a U-haul. They worked so fast, it was like a second tornado had come through.
Big Red had to move to a new school. I took him for one last day at his old one and his classmates had a party for him. I had to stand out in the hallway to gain my composure when I saw how much they had done. Not just for him but his brother as well. There were boxes full of toys and clothes.
It still makes me tear up when I think about the lengths that people have gone to for us. We're not used to be on the receiving end of such generosity and it's very humbling. We have always tried to be good people, and pay it forward so to speak and this experience has definitely reaffirmed that for us.