Local News

Fayetteville tornado survivor: 'I had to level my entire home'

Posted April 16, 2012 4:29 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2012 6:23 p.m. EDT

Twisters cut a half-mile wide swath through the western and northern fringes of Fayetteville last April, destroying more than 140 homes in Cumberland County and damaging another 1,300. One person in the county was killed.

A year later, the Cottonade neighborhood’s debris and rubble have turned into home construction and new life.

“Trees came through the roof and destroyed my entire house. Then, I had to level my entire home,” said resident Mark Thompson, who moved his family and eventually came back home around Thanksgiving. “I displaced my family, but we made it through. We made it through.”

Dandelions have replaced what used to be Thompson’s next-door neighbor’s house – a neighbor who chose not to rebuild. Thompson said he has no plans to leave.

“I’ll be here for the next 30 years,” he said.

The tornado leveled dozens of homes in the neighborhood, but the howl of the storm yielded to the sound of chainsaws. New shingles, new bricks and new growth soon sprouted.

William Parker was standing in his business, Pentagon Barber Shop on Yadkin Road, when the roof collapsed on him, leaving him temporarily in a wheelchair with his arm in a sling. He was back on his feet by September, cutting hair again.

“How great people are. How helpful they are when you’re down and out,” Parker said. “That’s the biggest thing I can say. People have been great.”

Soon after the tornadoes barreled through the area, a crisis counseling program called "North Carolina on the Road to Resilience" took shape. The group, which mostly serves Cumberland and Sampson counties, is funded by a federal grant and helps people after the storm, whether they need counseling or help dealing with paperwork. Volunteers also speak at schools and churches about emergency preparedness.