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For Dunn family, laughter was key in recovering after 2011 tornado

Posted April 14

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— If laughter really is the best medicine, Dunn residents Stanley and Sherry Baker have a lifetime prescription.

In the last five years, as they've battled past physical and emotional scars left by a tornado that destroyed the life they once knew, the Bakers have needed each and every chuckle they've mustered.

"I joke at a lot of things instead of crying," Sherry Baker admits.

On April 16, 2011, the Bakers and their daughter, Barbara, were all inside the brick home where the couple had lived for 28 years.

It was a bright, sunny Saturday that quickly turned dark.

"It was just total darkness," Sherr Baker recalls. "Evil black."

The darkness signaled the approach of a powerful tornado, one that would forever change things for the Bakers. The couple and their daughter hunkered down in a hallway and then watched the home fall apart around them.

"I saw the back room fly off, which was our master bedroom," Sherry Baker said. "I saw it just go away. The only thought process I had was, 'We're all going to die. We're all going to die together, and God just takes us all.'"

Just as quickly as it arrived, the tornado was gone. The Bakers were bruised, battered and dazed, but they were alive.

"I remember looking at my house, and I said, 'My God. Everything is gone,'" Sherry Baker said.

The storm wasn't the only rough patch in 2011, which Sherry Baker calls the "year of the devil."

Not long after losing her home, Sherry Baker was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Her husband Stanley Baker had a knee replaced, and their other daughter's home was destroyed by a fire.

"A lot of people get mad at God. They get mad and don't understand, and they try to turn away from it. But eventually, you want to realize that, if you stick with that faith and stay steadfast with it, the outcome will work out," Sherry Baker said.

Homes along Carroll Byrd Lane were rebuilt after the storm, and most families returned. The Bakers weren't one of them. It was too emotional.

"I cry. I still cry once in a while," Sherry Baker said.

Despite that lingering sadness, the Bakers do still find reasons to smile.

They have a new home a few miles away from their old one, and Sherry Baker is cancer free and still using humor to cope.

"I'd rather joke about something than sit around and boo hoo," she said. "If you see me start crying, the best thing to do is get away from me."

Stanley Baker offers a compelling reason why: "Because she's going to bite you."

"You've been bitten a few times, haven't you?" Sherry Baker quipped back.

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