Tornado survivors share their story

Renee Jackson stands proudly in front of her new residence.

Albany, GA (Albany Herald) — On the morning of Jan. 22, Moosie, the dog, seemed out of sorts. She would go to the door and look out, to the left then the right and up toward the sky. Moosie, a pit bull bull-mastiff mix, simply was not her usual 9-month-old playful self as she kept returning to her crate.

Renee Jackson and her children, Dontavious and Shandreal Troutman, ages 20 and 23, respectively, got a call from family members in Camilla warning them of an approaching tornado. Cars began to line up at Paradise Village Mobile Home Park as residents tried to get away from the coming bad weather.

But Jackson and her children were too late. The family saw from their front door the tornado approaching. Jackson and her children went into a closet and held on to one another.

“I told the kids to not let go, no matter what,” Jackson said. The three stayed in a bundle of arms and legs as Jackson began to repeat, “The Lord is my shepherd …” over and over.

Shandreal Troutman said the sounds were horrible around them as the roof peeled away and trees fell.

“I was so scared, but I held on to my mama and brother,” she said last week.

As the air pressure around the tornado began to build, the threesome was thrown from their mobile home, still holding on to one another.

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Jackson had a few scratches and bruises. Dontavious Troutman was physically fine, but he could not find Moosie. The family couldn’t go safely into the rubble to look for her, so they began helping their neighbors as best they could.

Shandreal, too, was safe.

“My left side was a little sore, and I had grass and dirt all over me but nothing else,” she said.

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Family members from Camilla arrived at the Flash Foods on U.S. Highway 19, the closest they could get to the Holly Drive disaster. With just the clothes on their backs, and without their beloved dog, the family left the rubble that had been their home.

There was assistance in the form of vouchers from the American Red Cross to buy a few clothes and personal items. When it was possible, the family, along with their neighbors, scoured the area in search of anything salvageable. For the Jackson-Troutman family, there were a few clothes, a couple of wreaths and a microwave.

What they wanted most to find, though, was Moosie. Having been in her crate at the far end of the mobile home, they knew it was possible that she had not survived.

One week after the tornado, Jackson met with a FEMA representative at the site of what had been their mobile home. A full assessment of the family’s losses was completed, and within a week, a check arrived so the family could start over.

About the same time as the FEMA money arrived, a call came from the Albany Humane Society. Moosie had been found pinned under a shed in the park, not far from her home. For two weeks she was lodged there, seriously wounded but alive.

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“Dr. Vivian at Westover Animal Hospital did everything she could to save Moosie’s right front leg. It was just so bad and had been so long, the leg had to be amputated,” Jackson said.

Also at issue was the family car, which had been buried under pine trees during the storm. Although insured, it would be some time before the insurance company could safely assess the damage. They needed a car.

A family member took Jackson to see a man who had a car he was trying to sell. When they arrived at the man’s home, Jackson stayed in the truck when she was certain she heard God speak, saying “Just be still.” The men talked about the car, which was priced at $2,500. When the seller learned the story behind the need for the vehicle, he let it go for $800 on the spot.

“We are so blessed. People we never met donated furniture and all sorts of things needed to set up our household again,” Jackson said.

Both Shandreal and her mother say they miss living at Paradise Village.

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Shondreal said, “It was the best group of people, and we were like one big family. Everyone looked out for one another, especially the kids.”

Jackson added, “It was the best place I have ever lived.”

Jackson said she has no plans to return to the site of her former home to see what it looks like now.

“Everytime I went out there to look for belongings or to meet with FEMA or to search for Moosie, it was just like it was happening all over again,” she said.

The family is renting the home they moved into on March 1 with an option to buy after a year. It is a solid house of brick. There is even a fenced-in back yard for Moosie. With the help of some dedicated recovery workers and the speed of FEMA, they are gradually recovering from the worst day of their lives.

And, the salvaged microwave still works.