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Tornado forces some to move on, while others rebuild

A month after a line of tornadoes wreaked havoc on eastern North Carolina, killing 24 people and leaving numerous communities in ruins, storm victims are making the choice of rebuilding or moving on.

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DUNN, N.C. — As a Dunn man prepares to rebuild his home, which was destroyed a month ago by a tornado, a family who lived nearby has decided not to return to the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, a Fayetteville barber hopes to reopen his storm-damaged shop and bring back his fellow barbers who are now scattered among several shops.

A month after a line of tornadoes wreaked havoc on eastern North Carolina, killing 24 people and leaving numerous communities in ruins, storm victims are making the choice of rebuilding or moving on.

Willie Wrench began razing his damaged Dunn home on Sunday. He has been living out of a trailer in his yard since the April 16 storm.

"It's bad to see them all tear it all down. People say, 'Well, you're getting a new house.' I said, 'It ain't home, though.' I've been staying there for 48 years. I mean, a new home doesn't mean anything to me," Wrench said.

The process to rebuild has been slow and painful, he said. The builder is awaiting permits, but he said he hopes to be in the house in six months.

Nightmares haunt Dunn family

On nearby Carroll Byrd Lane, Sherry Baker, her husband, Stanley, and their daughter, Barbara, suffered minor injuries as the tornado sucked their life's belongings into the air.

The Bakers stayed at a Dunn motel for a couple of weeks after the storm and recently moved into a rental house. Sherry Baker said Monday that they will never return to their old neighborhood, which remains littered with damaged cars and uprooted trees.

"I know I'm here, hoping to be here for several months, maybe through the holidays," she said. "You just don't know because, totally, you're misplaced, and it's hard to find your way back."

Their rental house is filled with storage containers of new clothes, canned goods and a few trinkets they were able to pull from the rubble of the home where they lived for 28 years.

Sherry Baker said the transition has been difficult.

"I've slept maybe one night since the tornado," she said.

Barbara Baker, 39, who has cerebral palsy, has had nightly seizures for most of the last month, her mother said.

"The seizures are because of the tornado. Any time you have any trauma, it brings them on," Sherry Baker said.

As they try to rebuild their lives, she said, she remains haunted by the past.

"A never-ending nightmare is the best way to see it. You have it all day, 24/7," she said. "Even now, if I get a silent moment, that tornado is going through my mind. My home ripping apart is going through my mind. Whether or not we're going to live is going through my mind."

Barber plans to return to trimming hair

In Fayetteville, the Pentagon Barber Shop, so named to appeal to the military crowd, remains a crumbled shell, but owner William Parker said he plans to rebuild and return his fellow barbers to their chairs.

Parker was cutting hair when the tornado hit.

"I was up under the (rubble) there, up under the concrete blocks and everything else," he said.

Customers, including some soldiers, pulled him out. He suffered a broken collar bone and cracked ribs.

Parker said he was so dazed by the experience that he had no idea what happened to anyone else in the shop. Barber Norman Upsher was working the next chair at the time.

"The roof caved in, and there was something that hit me in the head and my leg got caught," said Upsher, who suffered a fractured ankle.

Although his leg is in a brace, Upsher has started back cutting hair at a nearby barber shop, and three other Pentagon barbers are working at a third shop.

Parker, who is at a rehabilitation center in Fayetteville and only recently started walking again, said the trimmers will be buzzing again soon at the Pentagon.

"Hopefully, within two or three months, we'll be back, and I'll be in the shop myself," he said.


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