Story: I saw the black funnel cloud coming right at me

This story is written by disaster volunteer Allen Crabtree. Photos by Daniel Cima.

2011 Spring Storms

Gilda Brisbon and her family know what it’s like to be homeless. When they moved into their home in the King Charles Road neighborhood in Raleigh, N.C., three years ago, they thought those days were behind them. However, on Saturday, April 16, everything changed when their home was destroyed by a class EF1 tornado and they lost everything but the clothes on their backs.

“My daughter, Brittany, was home alone when it hit,” said Brisbon. “I had heard the warning sirens and was hurrying to get home. I looked at my watch, and it was 3:31 p.m. when I saw the black funnel cloud coming right at me.” She took refuge in a nearby friend’s house with her grandson, Anthony, struggling to keep the door closed against the storm.

Daughter Brittany saw the lights flicker on and off, felt the house shake and heard the sounds of the storm and a large tree in their yard being uprooted. She took refuge in the laundry room, fortunately suffering only minor cuts and bruises as the tornado demolished all but the kitchen and the laundry room. “It rained very hard for about five or ten minutes, and then everything got quiet,” she said. “I ran from the house to find my mother, and had to climb under and over many trees that were knocked down.” She added “the houses on either side of ours were untouched, but ours was destroyed! That’s just not fair!”

2011 Spring Storms

The Brisbons stayed Saturday night and Sunday at the nearby house of their friend, Latesha Winston and her two children. The power was out in the entire neighborhood, however, so when they heard that there was an American Red Cross shelter open at the Garner United Methodist Church in Garner, N.C., they all took refuge there.

Red Cross Shelter Manager Judy Cox said that many of the families staying at the shelter have similar stories. They have lost power, some have had their homes destroyed, and all are extremely grateful for the Red Cross help in their time of trial.

“This is the first time that we have ever stayed at a Red Cross shelter, but we know about homeless shelters from the 93 days we were without a place to call home,” Brisbon said. “Your shelter here is so much nicer than that other place where we stayed, and all of your people are so kind to us and treat us wonderfully. The Red Cross is really a blessing, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Brisbon and her family are not sure what they will do next. Their home has been condemned and they must now find a new place to live, but they have been through tough times before and are positive that they will make it through this challenge that life has thrown at them.

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