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Five years later, mental scars still fresh for Bertie County tornado victims

Posted April 16

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— When dozens of tornadoes ripped through central and eastern North Carolina in 2011, they took a huge toll on dozens of communities.

Bertie County, a rural county of about 20,000 people, was especially hard hit – the storms claimed 12 lives.

Five years later, residents in the tiny town of Colerain still remember the day vividly, easily recalling the path of the storms and the unforgettable impact it made on their lives.

Teresa Perry and her husband, Robert, were in their home when the storms rolled through.

"When the storm hit, I was sitting in my kitchen. With us in the house, (the tornado) picked it up, flipped it and threw the house in the woods," Teresa Perry said.

Robert Perry and Teresa Perry's aunt were both killed, and for the next year, Teresa Perry lived in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer.

Workers from Samaritan's Purse, people Teresa Perry calls "beautiful," eventually built her a new home, but it came with a caveat.

"I'm still on the same land, so every time I pull up this driveway, it brings back memories," she said. "I can still picture the house, how it was lying, how it was destroyed. I can picture it all."

Those mental scars are still with Teresa Perry, even half a decade later.

"Every time the clouds get dark, I get nervous," she said.

Some of Teresa Perry's neighbors, Charles and Leah Newsome, have also spent much of the last five years working to repair a life ripped apart by the tornado.

The family's Oak Down Stables building was flattened in the storm.

Charles Newsome had just left the family farm before the storm arrived. He said he passed by friends on his way home.

"I turned right, blew the horn at them, I waved," he recalls. "They waved back, and 20 minutes later, they were dead."

When the tornado arrived, the couple was in their home – Charles Newsome remembers eating an apple and drinking a glass of water.

Days after the storm, as they assessed the damage and figured out what to do next, Charles Newsome told WRAL News the storm "made me a very untrusting person of people and God. That's how I feel."

Five years later, he feels differently.

"Now, in recollection, (God) didn't do that," Newsome said. "That was me upset. That devil had a ball with that."

The Newsomes rebuilt their farm, and Leah is giving riding lessons to children again.

"It's been wonderful to get a new start," Leah Newsome said. "It has strengthened my faith. There were some wonderful, wonderful people, friends and strangers who came to our aid."


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