Jessica Gargus: Eye of the Storm

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Jessica Gargus: Eye of the Storm

Wreckage from the tornado in Hackelburg, Alabama (Courtesy Photo)

Wreckage from the tornado in Hackelburg, Alabama (Courtesy Photo)

Wreckage from the tornado in Hackelburg, Alabama (Courtesy Photo)

Wreckage from the tornado in Hackelburg, Alabama (Courtesy Photo)

Ariel Orr, Junior Editor

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Whirling winds can be heard for miles. The limbs of branches are violently torn from the trunks of trees just outside senior Jessica Gargus’ house. She knows what is coming. She hides in terror in the storm shelter. She wonders if her beloved childhood home will be able to withstand the storm that is heading its way.

April 27 marks the six year anniversary of the tornado that wiped out Gargus’ home in Hackleburg, Alabama.

“They say you never know what you have until it’s gone,” Gargus said. “Believe me, it’s true.”

Gargus recalls school being canceled that Wednesday morning due to inclement weather. Later that afternoon, hail began to fall, revealing that the storm was approaching.

“We all went on with the day though, because it wasn’t abnormal for Alabama weather to get kind of strange,” Gargus said. “There was no noise, no birds, no wind, nothing. I remember the stillness. It was as if nothing existed.”

Gargus and her grandparents decided to move to their storm shelter around 4 p.m. that afternoon. It was only about five minutes before Gargus could hear the storm outside.

“[It sounded] like a train coming at you full speed. That’s a sound you will never forget.””

— Jessica Gargus

After a while, the storm subsided, and it was time for Gargus and her family to examine the damage. Her grandfather was the first to peek at what was left of their belongings.

“I walked out the door and instantly cried,” Gargus said. “The trees were on the ground, and the place was unrecognizable. The house was a few inches off its original foundation so the floor had started to fall through.”

Gargus’ family members weren’t the only ones affected. She recalls her neighbors house being completely gone.

“I let the other girl borrow some shoes and we got some jackets and coats from my closet because we were soaked from the hard rains,” Gargus said. “Some of the survivors went to go and look for the remaining people alive.”

They found themselves once again hiding in their storm shelter until their family could arrive. They could hear hail falling once again.

“It was close to midnight before my cousin’s family could finally reach us and get us out of that horrific scene,” Gargus said. “I remember climbing over power poles, downed trees, and power lines. I remember seeing the rest of the town in ruins. The next morning we went back into town and started the cleanup.”

After the storm passed, Gargus and her family were safe. However, her hometown was not the same as what it was just hours before. Six years later, she stills looks back on the day her life was changed forever.

“My things that I had known forever were gone,” Gargus said. “We now have a great home and are adding more to my hometown. I love it dearly and am forever grateful that I lived through that day when some of the others weren’t so fortunate.”

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