Dustin and Amanda Williams and their children, Mason, Jacob, Alyse and Natalie, survived the destruction of their house in Pleasant Grove. The house was moved off its foundation and the front porch and what was left of the house rested on the back of the foundation.
Williams was at home and called his wife to ask her to bring home a radio. The family ate dinner in the hallway before deciding to move to the basement. They gathered their chairs in a circle and waited.
Williams said a window broke, then another. They huddled and began to pray and then realized “the storm was on top of us,” Williams said.
The storm dragged the house across the foundation, collapsing a concrete wall, trapping Williams from the chest down and covering the oldest son, Mason. A shower stall broke loose, hitting Amanda Williams’ back and immobilizing her.
Williams said he instructed his youngest son, Jacob, to go to a neighbor’s house for help. He returned to report that the neighbor’s house was also gone. Jacob and his sisters began calling for help.
Neighbors and sheriff’s deputies arrived and lifted the wall to free Williams and Mason. Williams said his hips and back supported most of the weight and the only thing trapping Mason was his ankle pinned under his father’s ankle.
Williams suffered a broken right leg and his wife suffered three or four shattered vertebrae. She was struck in the back of the head and her eye was injured.
Both were transported to local but separate hospitals. Williams said the ambulance was packed with other victims.
“The children were orphaned for a time,” he said. “That was the worst part about it.”
The children were taken to a shelter at a nearby church and later taken to a larger facility. Williams said another family looked after his children until his mother-in-law was able to find them the next morning at around 12:30 a.m.
“The storm was so strong,” Williams said, “it pulled my glasses, ring and wrist watch off.” Williams said a Lincoln Navigator from seven blocks away dropped on his wife’s Durango.
Williams’ brothers were able to salvage one plate from Amanda Williams’ grandmother’s china set. The plate is now on display in their new kitchen in Chelsea.
Also salvaged were her nurses’ pin and his retirement pin and police badge. Williams is on disability retirement from the Birmingham Police Department.
Recovery for Williams and his wife has been a slow process. He had a pin placed in his leg, but due to a vitamin D deficiency later required more invasive surgery. He was released by his surgeon May 21.
Amanda Williams continues to suffer from nerve damage and is under a doctor’s care for pain management. The blow to the back of her head caused a brain bleed and she began suffering seizures. Medication is expected to control the seizures and she hopes to return to work as a registered nurse.
Williams and his family stayed with his mother, Debi Tubbs, in Centerpoint Acres from May until August.
Williams said they relocated to Chelsea rather than rebuild in Pleasant Grove because “we didn’t want to look at the devastation every day.” You can stand in the lot where my house in Pleasant Grove was and turn 360 degrees and still see the devastation and very little rebuilding.” More than 700 houses were destroyed in the Pleasant Grove area.
“A lot of people helped and offered prayers for us,” Williams said. “I knew people that died in that storm and we are not as bad off — we still have our family.”
Part of the proceeds from Sylabration will benefit victims of the tornadoes.
Contact Mark Ledbetter at firstname.lastname@example.org