When The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Team received a call about an elderly man in a remote location with no electricity or running water, they packed supplies and hit the road.
About a mile and a half off a gravel road, deep in the woods, The Salvation Army roving unit met Mr. Robert sitting outside in an old antique rocking chair surrounded by debris. Once his favorite porch rocker, it now sits on the dirt ground next to an old water well dug the year he was born.
Mr. Robert's house is settled on over 120 acres of family land and was built by his great-great-grandfather in the 1800s. In fact, 90-year-old Mr. Robert was born in the same room he was sitting in when the tornado hit on Friday, March 24. This day was especially difficult as it also marked the second anniversary of his wife's death. They had been married for just over 59 years.
Robert said he was in bed with his “little buddy,” a poodle mix named Teddy, when the electricity went out, turning off his CPAP machine. He moved to his recliner in the adjacent room to be inclined and breathe. “Teddy was in the chair with me,” he said. “It was steady lighting outside.”
About the time he sat down, his window air conditioning unit was sucked out of the window. He then felt the house lift off the ground. “It picked the house up, and I thought we were about to go for a ride and not sure where we would land.” The house was completely lifted off its foundation and dropped several feet away, causing the walls to crack and the roof to cave.
“I tried to get out but couldn't,’ he said. “All of the doors were jammed. Every one of them.” Tired and trapped, Mr. Robert said he laid back on the bed. Thankfully, his neighbors up the road came to check on him when they smelled the strong odor of propane from the broken line. “They had to kick the door in to get me out.”
“Not a scratch on him,” said Lori, his son Allen's girlfriend. “We are so grateful.”
Mr. Robert said he was glad he and Teddy made it out alive. “He has been with me every day and night since my wife died. He was her dog.”
“He's been through a lot in his lifetime, and he said this just might be one of the worst,” said Lori.
Salvation Army Officer of Meridian, MS, Lt. Roy Fisher, is a certified grief coach and took the opportunity to listen as Mr. Robert “reminisced about his life growing up in the country as well as the wonderful story of his wife and their life together.” Lt. Fisher said his training and experience have taught him the importance of listening to survivors and asking questions about their experiences.
“In the midst of the destruction, there was a peace that came over us as we sat there and talked,” said Lt. Fisher. Thankfully, his family and friends (who call him “PAPA”) are working to help him clear the destruction and sort through the next steps.
The Salvation Army team supplied Mr. Robert and his family with shelf-stable meals, cases of water and snacks, and information on how to receive additional Salvation Army assistance as needed.About The Salvation Army