Holidays hold extra-special meaning for tornado survivors
Posted December 22, 2011
Dunn, N.C. — It's been eight months since a series of tornadoes touched down across North Carolina, destroying hundreds of homes.
For dozens of families, like Stanley and Sherry Baker, of Dunn, the holiday season holds an extra-special meaning.
The two had to start their lives over in April after a tornado destroyed their home of 28 years, as well as every single house on their block.
"Sometimes, it's like old Clint Eastwood says, you have to take the bad with the good," Sherry Baker said Thursday. "So, we got the good, the bad and the ugly. I would say that's what this year has been about."
The Bakers didn't just survive a tornado and lose their house. Sherry Baker discovered she had Stage 3 cancer. Weeks after surgery left her cancer-free, her grandsons lost their home to a fire.
It's almost too much to bear, but the Bakers know 2011 has been a rebuilding year for many.
In their old neighborhood on Carroll Byrd Lane, houses still sit in disrepair.
Willie Wrench demolished and rebuilt his. He was one of the first to move back.
"I was glad to get the house – don't misunderstand me – but it doesn't seem like home yet. It probably won't ever seem like home," Wrench said.
He was in his old house for 48 years, and the pain of losing it is still very fresh.
"When I see a cloud coming up … and the wind starts blowing hard, I don't stay here," he said. "I'm not scared of wind, but I'll tell you what: (a tornado) will change your attitude."
The Bakers decided it was too difficult to rebuild. They sold their house and moved a few miles away.
"I just learn to have more patience and know that my faith is there," Sherry Baker said. "There is a reason for everything."
Both the Bakers and Wrench say that their hardships and tragedies only mean that Christmas has an even more special meaning this year.
"I had cancer twice. A tornado came. I'm still here," Wrench said. "I’m lucky – or blessed – I don’t know which one it is, but I’m still here. I've been put here for a reason."
"Actually, I’m not having a depressing Christmas. I love Christmas," Sherry Baker said. "I want everyone to be happy. We’re alive; we have a roof over our head – all of us have."