(WARNING: You may not want to read or view the following content, its your decision.)
Photography Credit: the Creative Orchard
MY PERSONAL TORNADO STORY:It was late morning on Sunday, November 17th. My two children were thankfully staying at my in-laws in another town that weekend and had not came home yet. My husband and I were at home in our pajamas when we noticed the weather seemed odd outside. It was windy, rainy, dark skies yet felt warm. Our cell phone alarms started going off with TORNADO warnings for our area. Soon after our town TORNADO sirens began wailing but since that happens all the time here during the Spring season, we didn't take it too seriously. I was in the restroom watching the weather out my window and heard a mother screaming dramatically for her child to get in the house. I looked around but saw no one. My husband was down stairs in the basement playing video games when the power shut off. I heard my husband run up the stairs and hysterically yell for me to get in the basement immediately because he could see the TORNADO clouds outside the window over our neighbors house. I then heard the sound of a loud wind similar to a freight train. I began to run as quickly as possible down to the basement while I could hear windows breaking one by one behind me. When we got to the basement we huddled down together in our laundry room where there were no windows and closed the door. I have never ever been so scared in all my life. The house began to shake and so did our bodies. I started to scream and cry hysterically while it loudly sounded as if our home was being ripped apart. Then suddenly everything just stopped! It got very calm and quiet.
Then I worried about my friend, Jodi and her family who lived a couple streets over. We ran there and noticed one by one gradually each home was progressively more and more damaged, then eventually they were all destroyed. Jodi and her family were safe but the majority of their home was gone. I began to cry again but she was in more of a state of shock and was not acting like herself. Jodi said she was missing her wedding ring and wanted us to help look for it. We rummaged through the rubble in her yard and collected photographs but no ring was found.
After all the Firefighters went door to door to account for each individual, they marked each home with a giant X. When the search for people was complete, debris clean-up started immediately. Our phones rang like crazy from family and friends checking to make sure we were all safe. We wanted to clean our children's rooms first so that they wouldn't see how bad they looked. With no power or heat and strong winds blowing, it got very cold and dark. Each home member and volunteers did their best to board up windows, doors and roofs. The first thing I wanted to do was just hold my kids in my arms as soon as possible. So we generously packed our bags and planned to stay with family and friends for a while. For many days/weeks the entire subdivision and surrounding areas were under a community lock down by the local police. Our personal TORNADO damage list consisted of a vehicle destroyed, entire siding, entire roof, 8+ windows, garage door, garage wall, attic wall, front door, outdoor light fixtures, porch posts/railing, mailbox, large gazebo, grill, outdoor decor, umbrella, hammock stands, tree house/playground set, misc. toys, beds/bedding, curtains/blinds, clothing, furniture, etc.
For multiple weeks afterwards I felt emotionally overwhelmed and concerned for the safety of my family and our home, so I can only imagine how others who were more affected than us must have felt. Every time I looked or went outside it was like it just happened all over again. From now on, I will definitely take TORNADO sirens/warnings much more seriously and go to safety immediately as a precaution. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected and experienced any kind of loss due to the TORNADO. If you would like to show support, volunteer or make donations, you should be able to contact one of the sources below or search for other similar online sources. Later this SPRING, I will post an UPDATE to share my personal progress and the rebuilding of Washington, IL.
WASHINGTON STRONG! WE WILL RISE & REBUILD!
"Washington Strong" T-shirts & flags can be purchased at TEAMWORKS! 100% proceeds go to local victims.
National Weather Service for Central Illinois
Washington Tornado Relief Fund
American Red Cross Central Illinois Chapter
Washington IL Tornado Recovery on Facebook
Lutheran Church Charities Disaster Recovery
Found Items from Illinois Tornadoes on Facebook
Washington: Our Anthem (American Made) Vimeo Video