Columbia, MS (WLOX) - In Columbia, MS, there are some amazing stories about faith and survival emerging on this Christmas Eve. As storm victims salvage what few belongings they have left, many are giving thanks that the loss of life wasn't worse.
Storm damaged sections of Columbia resemble a war zone. Homes and businesses reduced to ruins in a matter of moments.
"That's all you could see was debris flying up in the air," said the Rev. Paul Cunningham.
The pastor was ringing the Salvation Army bell at the Winn Dixie when the twister hit.
"It was lightning strikes hitting poles and poles bending. Trees, that's all you seen was debris in the air. Cars getting flipped over and everything, man," Cunningham recalled.
His church was among the many buildings that sustained damage, but it is still standing. Many nearby structures are not.
"Just yesterday it was, I mean it was houses, businesses booming. I mean, now when you look and just see all of the rubble. Just like man, you know," Cunningham said.
Amid these ruins, there are amazing stories of survival. People able to count their blessings this Christmas.
"Oh, I can't describe what it was like. It was the worst thing I ever seen and heard in my life," said 84-year-old Martha Hall.
She is among the survivors. Though her home is gone, she counts her blessings. Hall and her daughter were in an SUV when the tornado hit.
"Just rocking and shaking and cracking and bopping. I just laid down and struck me up side my head and almost knocked me out. I just got down as low as I could and began to pray and asked the Lord to save us. And he did," Hall recalled.
Her family is thankful this Christmas. Material things matter not.
"The roof blew off my mom's house, and you can see it's placed over there on another building. And it's just, I don't know," said Hall's daughter, Elnora Herbin.
As heavy equipment moved debris, utility crews made repairs and people tried to salvage a few belongings, so many storm victims can still count their blessings on this Christmas Eve.
Given what this area looks like, the loss of life could have been so much worse.
"Just thank God that people made it, and we're able to see one another again. We'll rebuild," said Cunningham.