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NC families rebuild after tornado

BY TRAVIS DUNN | KENLY, N.C. | October 31, 2002

"It was like something you'd see in a movie."

—Charles Allen

Two families here are struggling to put their lives back together after their homes were totally destroyed by a freak tornado Oct. 11.

While Raleigh 30 miles to the west was being deluged with between four and eight inches of rain, Kenly was relatively unaffected by the major storm, receiving less than an inch, according to Jonathan Blaes, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

But at 1:45 p.m. that all changed, when a small tornado came tearing through the town.

Bobby Hunt and his 18-year-old stepson Russell Heddings were at home at the time.

Heddings said he didn't really understand what was happening, other than that the entire house began to shake violently. He dropped to the floor, curled up in a ball and stared in disbelief as the wind tore the roof of the building.

Hunt had just woken up and was in the bathroom getting dressed for work. He stayed in the bathroom until the house came crashing to rest.

It wasn't until Hunt and Heddings staggered from the house-unharmed-that they realized that the building had been thrown 20 feet through the air and had smashed into their minivan.

"That house was twisted off its foundation," said Lulu Jolliff, executive director of the Kenly Area Ministries, one of the volunteer groups that has worked to get the Hunt family and others back on their feet. "There was nothing left."

Neither Charles Allen nor his family, including his wife Carolyn, daughter Raquel and two granddaughters, Chereka and Jolisa, were in their home when it was destroyed. They came home to find a pile of rubble where their house once stood.

"We lost everything. It was just completely demolished," said Allen. "It was like something you'd see in a movie."

"It looked just like dynamite was set off inside the home," said Edward Twigg, emergency services coordinator for the local chapter of the American Red Cross. "It was obliterated."

"With the help of the Lord -- it's the only way I could survive something like that," said Allen.

The Red Cross paid for motel rooms for both families, as well as another family whose house lost its roof to the hurricane.

Three other Kenly homes were damaged by the tornado, said Jolliff, as were two others in nearby Wilson County.

Other local groups also helped the families in various ways.

The Johnson County Council and the City of Kenly helped find the Hunts a new place to live.

The Salvation Army gave the Hunts a 1989 Chevy Aerostar, since the family had not only lost its minivan to the tornado, but a small pickup truck as well, according to Major Sue Jervis.

"We didn't let them borrow it," Jervis said. "We gave it to them."

The Kenly Area Ministries paid for new roofs for two homes and helped pick up whatever expenses the other groups couldn't handle, according to Jolliff.

"We don't have the red tape that the other groups have," she said.

"It's pretty amazing all the help we've received," said Elizabeth Hunt, who, along with her husband went back to work four days after their home was destroyed.

"Life does goes on," Elizabeth Hunt said, "and we had to have the money to support our family."

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