I've met many wonderful people during my time working in West Liberty. Each person has a story to tell; some of them are stories of survival and sadly, many are stories of lost loved ones. Talking with these people has really given me a better perspective on my own life and has made me realize how important it is for each of us to count our blessings.
While working in a small community about 10 miles from West Liberty, called Woodsbend, I met a couple who recently celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary. John and Sherry Flannery had been living on a small piece of property in Woodsbend for the last 35 years. Sherry's 90 year-old mother was living with the Flannerys during the time the tornado hit.
John recalled seeing the storm make its way over the mountaintops and straight toward his house, "it looked like a huge wave you see in the ocean; white capped. That's what the it looked like coming over the mountains, but it wasn't water; it was the storm, the wind and all the debris it was hauling with it."
John and Sherry struggled to get themselves and Sherry's mother to the cellar in time.
"I was trying to close the door, but the wind was pulling it open," John explained.
"You hear that the force of a tornado will pull you up off the ground, but it felt like something was pushing us down. I know that was The Lord protecting us," Sherry shared.
The Flannerys all made it through the storm safely, but when they emerged from the cellar, all of their belongings, including the home they had shared for more than three decades, were destroyed. With no place to live, the Flannerys are now staying in a trailer on their daughter's property, 10 miles away. Sherry's mother was moved to Florida to live with her son.
When asked what they planned to do with what was left of their home, Sherry said, "I don't want to live here right now; I just don't think I could live here now." But even after facing such loss and heartbreak, Sherry shared, "we've gained much more than we lost. To see so many good people coming to help our community; people who don't live here and have nothing to gain from spending their time cleaning up this mess, it really gives you hope to see the genuine goodness in perfect strangers."
The Flannerys are trying to salvage what is left of their life in Woodsbend, but will likely sell the property and start over someplace else. Unfortunately, not everyone in Morgan County can tell a similar story of hope.
Yesterday, my crew and I worked on a site where a family of five once lived. They tried to take cover when the tornado hit, but three members of their family did not survive. In addition to losing all of their personal belongings, they lost three loved ones. You cannot rebuild or recover the people you lose.. Hearing their story and seeing the complete devastation, both materialistic and personal, broke my heart.
I ask everyone to please keep the people of Morgan County in your thoughts and send your prayers that they may, somehow, someday, find peace in their hearts.