03 May 2023

When I think about March 31, 2023, I still don't really know what to think or where to start. I just know that it's incredibly insane life can change so fast. 

I've always been a worrier. Especially when it comes to weather. But the severe stuff always misses us, always goes a little north of Little Rock and we're in this deep valley... we're safe. Right? 

I was watching the weather on the 31st. Sometimes I wonder if it's silly for schools to dismiss or not. LRSD wasn't letting out so I text Emily's teacher and asked about their procedures for tornados. She told me they go to the bathrooms... on the second floor. My heart sunk. I didn't want that. And than I just worried that the girls would be scared and I wouldn't be there to comfort them. But I kept telling myself it was OK. At 1:47pm I saw a tweet from Todd Yakobian that he was concerned a super cell would hit the metro. I freaked out and walked out of my office immediately. I text Emmy's teacher and let her know I was on my way. It was naptime so she woke Emmy up and brought her out to me. They didn't have her shoes but I didn't care, we just left. I was debating whether or not to take her in Kate's school with me to grab Kate since I figured it would it would be quicker to not have to grab Emmy AND carry her since you know, no shoes. I had just about decided I was leaving her in the car for a quick grab when we pulled up to Fair Park and the tornado siren started going off. I grabbed Emmy and we ran into the building. I was shocked that Kate's class had already evacuated to the boys bathroom. We immediately found Kate and sheltered with her until the siren stopped. I'm still a little surprised that they let us leave when it stopped. Looking back we were incredibly lucky that all of that happened so fast. We found her and we able to leave and get home. 

Driving home was incredibly frustrating. There was traffic, there was a broken light at University and Cantrell. We sat there FOREVER! I was constantly refreshing twitter to check the weather. The sky was getting dark and green and KATV said the storm would hit LR around 2:30. It was 2:17 when I read this. I remember thinking, OK I have 13 minutes to get home. Then 2:19, I have 11 minutes. I feel like that was possibly the most scared and helpless I have ever felt. I was trying to decide if I should just drive over the curb and go against traffic. I was so worried. I switched lanes and got through a light. I remember driving down Pine Valley so fast. Kate actually told me that I didn't need to drive that fast and I told her it was normal speed and not to worry. We pulled up at our house at 2:22 pm. Got out of the car and found Brian on the couch watching the news. I ran to the bathroom, changed my clothes and was instantly relived. I didn't think in any scenario that we would actually get hit. And figured we have a basement and if it looks dicey we could just go downstairs. 

I walked back into the living room, the girls were sitting with Brian, watching his laptop. About that time Todd said for Cammack Village to take cover. Brian and I looked at each other and immediately it got loud. I took the girls downstairs, I don't remember being in any hurry. Brian went to shut the front door, I'll never forget how that squeak of the door sounded and the slam. I know I walked into the laundry room with the girls. I don't remember Brian coming in but both girls were in my lap, I was holding them and he was holding us. Our basement and downstairs is on a slope, the laundry vents out to the ground which slopes down the side of the house. I felt wind and debris coming in the side of the house so we all hopped up and ran to the other end of the basement. Brian says he felt the air being sucked out of the house. I just remember the noise. It was so loud. It felt like things were hitting the roof above us and not the roof of our house. Which know I know, it was. It sounded like 70 dryer balls in an empty dryer just beating. I never felt the house lift but it did feel like it was shaking all around. It happened so fast. It was maybe 20 seconds. The power went out as we entered the basement. Our home alarms starting blasting immediately. Followed by seven-hundred calls from SimpliSafe.  I kept asking them to disable and they kept telling me that they could transfer me. I didn't have time to be transferred!! 

Brian immediately left the basement. I heard the sirens again and called him to come back. He did, nothing happened and he was gone again. The girls and I sat in the dark basement for a long time. I called my mom, she was on her way. Kate had to go to the bathroom. We have a bathroom right outside of the basement so I took her. As soon as we walked out, I saw a ton of debris. There was this little tiny wicker chair with a mini soccer ball in it. It was so bizarre and I knew it wasn't ours. I was looking around trying to figure out how it got in the house. The bathroom was covered with debris and insulation. I took the bathmat and wiped the floor super quick. Grabbed a towel and wiped down the toilet. I told the girls to stay in the bathroom while I walked into the guest room to look out of the window. I couldn't believe my eyes. My neighbors house was basically gone. I screamed oh my goodness and started to cry. Emily reminds me of this response almost every day. I walked to the stairs and looked up to see the house had fallen in. I started walking up the stairs, screaming and crying. I kept telling myself to stop so I wouldn't upset the girls but I couldn't. I just kept. The stairs were covered in glass and I had on no shoes but I kept going. I couldn't believe my eyes. I heard Emmy coming behind me, I started hurrying. I couldn't make it into the hallway upstairs so I reached my arm around and snapped a picture of my room. When I got back downstairs I looked at it. I was shocked. I thought it was bad, I didn't know it was this bad. We got back in the basement to wait on Brian. The house smelled like gas. It was raining. We had no shoes and I really didn't know what to do.

Brian finally came back. He had a plan. Uncle Steve was coming to get us. He smelled the gas too and we needed to leave. He found shoes for us but the girls still didn't have any. We grabbed a backpack under the house, stuffed in our laptops, iPad and my purse and took off. It was raining. So we came back inside. Grabbed the AstroTurf rug from the shop and sat on it, there was glass and debris everywhere. We were so worried about the gas so decided to just go. The stairs on the side of our house were covered so we climbed up the hill with kids in tow. 

I snapped this picture when I came out of the side door. I couldn't believe that our entire yard was just trees. And I could see directly in our neighbors house. We made it to the cars and were able to find one pair of shoes. We opened the back of my highlander and sat the girls down, I stepped back to look and noticed the carport support columns were missing and the roof was leaning. I got super worried, grabbed the girls and started walking towards Pine Valley. A lady came walking down the road about that time looking for her dog. She was hysterical and took all of the girls attention. In hindsight, I'm so glad. I think she greatly distracted the girls from seeing what our house actually looked like. Especially that the entire left end (including their playroom and bedroom) was missing. Before we left, I was able to go in the front door and look for a rain jacket. I snapped these pictures just before we left our house. 

Really interesting thing about this picture is usually this view is all trees. I've never see the top of the roof of that house. I couldn't even see the house. The white house to the left was just completely devastated. I turned around and looked back at our house and could see Ridge Road. Again, usually it's so full of trees that you can't even see homes. It was mind blowing. I could hardly take in everything that I saw. And that Pete the Cat book on the driveway broke my heart. As we left, there were children's books everywhere. 

My purse was sitting next to this table. It was disgusting and I am still finding insulation in the bottom of the purse! 

As we walked away I took this picture. You can see Ridge Road right above our house here. You can tell the carport is already sloping and you don't even see the left end of the house. I have so many emotions looking at this picture. I was carrying Emily here and I just snapped a quick shot as we were walking. Emily started waving and saying "bye house." How significant that is to me now. That's the last time she ever saw our home, she'll never go back, not in this capacity. I don't really want to go back. There are so many feelings. Her sweet innocent bye just killed me then and kills me now thinking about it. 

We walked away and down Youngwood Rd like we've done so many times before. Glen Road was completely blocked with trees. Neighbors were out everywhere with stunned faces and total confusion. We passed a lot of people. I'm still shocked at how many people where trying to get in so fast. Lots of people driving by, stopping to ask us questions. Not a single one offered us a ride. We made it up to Pine Valley Road and were looking for Brian's coworker but she couldn't get close to us. We were trying to decide what to do. It started to rain again. We were going to try to walk to Cantrell. It's raining and we're carrying kids! I remembered Haley. I called Haley Heath to see if she was home. No answer but we figured we could at least sit in her carport, Pine Valley looked OK. I was secretly convinced that she probably had a key hidden. She called back and her house was unlocked! We got so close and I was about to fall out. I remember Brian dropping Kate on Haley's porch and running back to me and Emmy. We made it in Haley's house, I took off the backpack and fell out in the floor. I didn't move for a while. But I looked next to me, Emily was naked and playing with a barbie. I couldn't believe how unphased she was and just went back to playing. I cried again, I guess with relief. The next couple hours were filled with trying to figure out what to do. My parents got there so fast. I was shocked at how quick they made it. Uncle Steve finally made it to us and him, Brian and Chris went back to our house to see what they could get. Susan and Donnie were about to leave Wynne and come to us. David was already in route from NWA. 

It couldn't have been two hours since we were hit that we got a text from Susan saying that they were hit. Everyone was asking questions and she wasn't responding. I was sitting with Haley and told her. Not thinking about her family still living in Wynne. Anxious, we started making calls. Haley to her sister since she couldn't reach her mom and grandmother. Me to Susan and Donnie. We finally heard from Donnie that everyone, including Haley's family, was OK but two of the three were hit. David changed courses and went to Wynne. Steve and my parents stayed with us. We spent the next four nights going back and forth from Conway to Little Rock. 

I'm a planner. I always have been. Before we left our basement I had already called State Farm and filed a claim. I had the car claim done after I saw Brian's SUV. By the time we made it to Haley's, I had contacted our realtor for a rental. She had one, turns out it was my second cousin's townhouse in Foxcroft. She said as long as it wasn't hit, it was ours. 

I didn't know what to think on Friday night. I couldn't think of anything else and I don't know that it really hit what happened. Brian woke up on Saturday morning early. He had a plan. Him and Steve were going to Little Rock with a trailer and going to work to salvage what they could. My job was to find a storage unit as soon as possible and work out logistics. We had tons of calls from people asking to help. I didn't even know what to tell them. The day is still a massive blur. I just remember insurance telling me to take pictures. I told Brian to do that before moving anything. I knew he wasn't! I made it to Little Rock, after what feels like a million calls, I found a storage building. I signed the docs, got the keys and took off for our house. I couldn't get anywhere close. I ended up parking blocks away and walking to the house. Our pastor and his wife were there, Brian and Uncle Steve. I don't remember who else. I set out to take pictures for insurance. I walked around with Mary for a while as I took it all in. And just cried a lot. 

Someone added this wood to support the roof. I'm still a little shocked it didn't cave in. They were able to get my car out and hours later I found it a couple streets over. Look at the end and how the support columns and railing were just sucked out. 

The kitchen. And what's really crazy is the next picture. That tree went through a bunch of roof, attic, cabinets, all the stab through the refrigerator. I am also still shocked this roof hasn't caved in. 

I do love that the sound machine is just hanging out there in the middle of all the rubble. A friend showed up on Sunday and pulled all of that back, finding so many of the girls things. I was shocked at what they got. My wedding dress was under this pile, some of the girls baby books. I just can't believe this photo. 

This is where I finally just lost it and had to leave. I decided it was best not to be there and I still have trouble if we go back for something. The most perfect room. The drapes wrapped with the blinds is just wild to me. The fact that most of the all hangings are gone but the letters are there. There is no brick behind that sheetrock anymore. I just can't process how it all crumbled to pieces. 

The backyard. I've loved that tree for so long! He was a mighty guy. We had an original ArkLa gas grill next to it. It's now under the tree. And we found was the source of the gas leak. I'm just thinking back to the last weekend before the storm where we sat here and had dinner. It was beautiful. I was planning what to plant this year. Dad had just hung that planter for me under the window, that I built. It was SO HARD to hang! And with no warning, it's all just gone. It's a lot to think about. It's a lot of loss to mourn. I know we'll get through it. Sometimes I think the weeks will get easier. Some weeks are better than others. Then some weeks (or days) everything just weighs so heavy. I keep telling myself that we'll get through it, that I'll get through it. And I won't think about it so much. I'm hopeful that day will come soon. 

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