Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Van Resident Remembers, Rebuilds

by Carl Manning, guest contributor

Van resident David Thacker hugs Red Cross volunteer
Brenda Jones of Longview at his home
that was damaged by a tornado.
It’s really been hard for David Thacker to think about his long-time friend and neighbor who was killed when a tornado torn through rural Van, Texas.

David was among those who found his friend still clutching his dog in a nearby field after the EF-3 tornado destroyed his home and also killed his friend’s wife. 

He and his friend had a regular meeting every Wednesday evening when they got together at the roadside where they left their trash for pickup the next morning. It had become a tradition, a time David looked forward to each week. 

“We discussed politics and livestock. We got along real good,” he said as a smile filled his face.

“It’s hard, it really is. A lot of time I try not to think about. But I like to think he’s in a better place,” he said, looking down at the ground at the spot where they had stood together for a dozen years

But David considers himself lucky because he and his wife were home eating dinner when the storm came. They survived and their home is still standing. He recalled looking out and seeing the tornado coming his way and using all his strength to close the front door against the howling wind. 

After the storm, he was among the first to volunteer at the landfill site where the debris that once were homes and possessions were brought for disposal. 

“It lets me help those who have nothing. At least we still got our home,” he says. “We’re lucky and I felt an obligation to give back, to help those who didn’t come out of this as well as we did.”

His neighbor on the other side of his mobile home had damage but he said the six people inside survived with only a few cuts and scratches. His son and family living nearby also escaped with minor damage. 

David said he’s been busy cleaning up around his property including 1,700 feet of fencing that was ripped up. He walks through his hay field picking up pieces of shingles and various household items like a storage container for silverware and sometimes personal items like photographs blown there from near and far. 

“Got to clean up this field before mowing it because if I hit some of this stuff with my mower, it would be big trouble,” he said. 

Earlier in the day, he had stopped at the Community Center where the Red Cross and other agencies were assisting people with the recovery after the May 10 storm damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and displaced dozens of people. 

Within an hour after leaving the center, two Red Cross volunteers arrived to survey the damage to his home. He showed them how his home had been picked up and dropped back on the foundation, shifting a few inches to one side in the process. 

Red Cross volunteer Brenda Jones of Longview, Texas
hands snacks to Van resident David Thacker.

One of the volunteers reached into the van and handed him several snack items including a couple boxes of cookies – one for him and the other for his wife.

As he took the items, his eyes filled with tears. A minute later he walked over to the volunteer and hugged her.

“Until you see your friends die and your neighbors hurt, and you have people from all over the country to come out and help, there’s no way to describe how you feel,” he said while hugging the volunteer. “You’re a God-sent blessing.”

To help Red Cross spring storm relief efforts, visit RedCross.org/Donate or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

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