Waveland nurse shares powerful images from tornado relief mission

Arriving in Boley Springs, a small rural community within Berry, Alabama
Arriving in Boley Springs, a small rural community within Berry, Alabama
The Schultzs holding the key to their storage building with Phillip Garcia. The family of four will be living in this building.
The Schultzs holding the key to their storage building with Phillip Garcia. The family of four will be living in this building.
Mr. Spurell's trailer frame wrapped around a tree.
Mr. Spurell's trailer frame wrapped around a tree.
Autumn Garcia
Autumn Garcia

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - "It was like somebody went in there and just bush hogged everything. There was no trees, no houses. It looked like a landfill, just garbage everywhere," described Autumn Garcia.

Nothing prepared the Waveland nurse for the sheer devastation in Boley Springs, Alabama.

"I don't see how anybody survived," said Garcia. "Ninety-five percent were completely destroyed and there was nothing left of them. All there was a slab."

Over the weekend, Garcia delivered two truckloads of food, supplies, and other donations to 14 families in the rural, tornado-ravaged community. The compassion she witnessed there was overwhelming.

"To go there and see somebody that's lost everything they had, all they have is what's on their back, and to give them something and tell me that they do not want to take it. Their neighbor needs it more than they do. It just brought tears to all of our eyes. We could not believe it," said Garcia.

Garcia's husband Garret and eight volunteers also erected sheds that they built for six homeless families. One shed went to the Schultz family. They rode out the tornado in their storm shelter.

"He said as soon as he got the storm shelter door closed, it sucked the door off the storm shelter. And he said he looked back over his shoulder and he could the bricks, the cement blocks, one by one, being pulled away," Garcia said. "He said he knew they were going to die. He didn't think he was going to make it."

The family of four emerged from the storm shelter and found their home had blown away.

And Mr. Sprurell's trailer was found wrapped around a tree.  He also lost his brother and sister-in-law in the twister.  He was offered a shed, but turned it down.

"And they would just cry and cry and 'thank you, thank you,'" said Garcia.

Perhaps the most powerful reminder of the tornado's force is an artificial flower that was stuck to a tree.

"Nobody could pull it out of the tree," said Garcia. "A man said just the smallest thing like this flower could have killed us."

Before Garcia headed home from Boley Springs, she left behind a message from the people of Hancock County.

"We got a collection of stuff for you, because we've been through Katrina and we wanted you to know we know how you feel when you have no help and we're here to help," said Garcia.

Garcia says many families in Boley Springs are still living in campers, tents or damaged homes.  Her family plans to return to the community in a few weeks to help with rebuilding projects.

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