By Guest Columnists Sherry Landrum and Gerald M. Kerner
It was not officially a tornado, but at 5:13 and 39 seconds on June 16, eighty-five-mile-per-hour winds that lasted less than one minute pushed over an oak tree in our backyard, and the tree landed on half of the kitchen in Our Olde House.
Sherry: When the weather started ramping up, I decided to go to the kitchen for some anxiety medication. Our kitchen back wall is mostly glass and for the first time I was scared to go near it for fear that it was about to blow in. Meanwhile, our cat Hooch had followed me and was sitting on the table. I walked around our little corner bar to pet him until I thought things would calm down.
That was when the sound became so loud and seemed to be coming from all directions as well as the tornado sirens going off. It took me about three seconds to walk back around the bar and, as I turned around, I saw the 200-year-old ninety-foot-tall oak tree come through the ceiling. As I turned my face away, something hit me on the back of the head, and I fell to the floor, covering my head with my arms, feeling certain that my time had come. I heard transformers blowing, glass breaking, and things just kept on crashing down. All I can remember is screaming.
Being barefoot was not good, either, because of all that debris. After Jerry got to me, all I could think about was my Hoochie Man possibly being buried underneath the debris. Relieved to learn after Jerry searched for two to three hours that he was not, I had to go back into what was left of the kitchen to look for my purse, which I knew for certain was under all the tree trunk and limbs, broken wood, glass, wet insulation, etc.
As I was down digging through all the mess, I looked up and saw a perfect cross hanging down out of the ceiling…. chills went up my back, because I knew then that was MY sign that God had been there protecting me the whole time. Behind the cross is a picture of The Last Supper, which was covered up and protected by fallen sheetrock. God took care of me, as well as our whole family, that early morning, and, with Him and Jerry getting me out of the rubble, my part of Our Olde House story can be told.
Because of a wonderful idea that came from my amazing sister-in-law, the picture I took of that cross will be placed in our next kitchen as a daily reminder of just how great and powerful our God is and how much he loves each of us. We are truly blessed.
Jerry: As the tree was falling, the tornado sirens went on and the power went off, to the accompaniment of wind noise that infamously sounds like a train. Our generator was not damaged, although covered by some small branches with leaves, and it came on in a few seconds. I had stepped outside on the front porch to move some things away from the car, and, when I went back into the house, there was wind pushing the door shut, and I could hear Miss Sherry screaming from somewhere in the house.
I went to the back of the house and saw a large tree limb sticking through the roof and ceiling, nearly touching the dining room table; the table was covered with branches, leaves, pieces of the ceiling, wood from the attic and shingles from the roof. One window was broken, with glass everywhere. I later found another broken window and broken glass from a picture in the hall, and noticed broken glass in the sunroom, too.
It was raining into the kitchen, with water running on the floor and a tree that may crush more of the kitchen, so we left and shut the hall door. We found Fuzzy under our bed, but could not find Hooch. I went back into the kitchen to look for Hooch more thoroughly and convinced myself that he was not in there. We did not know what to do at this point, but we were both very grateful that we had power and were not working in the dark.
Dawn on Day 1: When the sun came up, we could see the situation better; the tree trunk was resting on the corner of the house. There were other limbs and branches covering the deck and most of the back yard. The porch to the apartment was ripped off when the tree trunk hit it square on.
I finally found Hooch under the other bed, after moving the stuff under the bed. He was in the corner of the house farthest from the tree – pretty smart choice of him. Miss Sherry was able to pet Hooch and was sure that he was not hurt, but he would not come out from under the bed until about noon.
We noticed our new tenant’s truck parked in the driveway; he was moving some stuff into the apartment the day before, but we did not think he had moved in yet. Our property manager was here, and he began calling every phone number for him he had, including where he worked; it was his day off, so he probably was in the apartment. The apartment was not hit, but the deck that used to be outside the front door was now a pile of wood ten feet below the apartment door.
The fire department came and put up a ladder to reach the front door. After some loud banging (firemen are not subtle), he came to the door and safely exited down the ladder. He had slept through the entire ordeal, which brought a little levity to the situation; everyone was happy and relieved that he was fine and did not fall after that infamous “first step.”
I do not believe that God pushed the tree over. I believe that the wind pushed the tree over, and that God steered it to land between the people in our apartment and the people and pets in Our Olde House; that tree could have easily demolished either structure and all of the contents and inhabitants. We are very grateful that did not happen.