Year marked since tornadoes wreaked destruction

Posted November 15, 2009 12:55 p.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2009 6:49 a.m. EST

— Sunday marks one year since five tornadoes roared across four counties in the early morning, killing two people and destroying nearly five dozen of homes and businesses.

Marylin Gomez, 60, of Scott Road in the Kenly area, and Joshua Wiggins, 11, of London Church Road in Elm City, were found dead in the wreckage of their homes.

Joshua had been adopted by his grandparents after his mother was murdered in 2005, a case that remains unsolved. He was a sixth-grader at Toisnot Middle School in Wilson. Teachers remembered him as a bright, outgoing boy who played the drums, enjoyed soccer and sang in the chorus.

Argiro Gomez said Marilyn Gomez, a native New Yorker, was a homemaker and a loving wife, mother and grandmother. They joked with each other during their 22-year marriage, he said.

“I miss her, the companionship," Argiro Gomez said. "Just to have her there, it was precious moments."

Argiro Gomez said his faith and his family helped him cope with the loss. This weekend, his son, Jonathan, daughter-in-law and 2-year-old grandson Julian, who live in Asheville, surprised him with a visit.

"I had no idea he was going to come,” Argiro Gomez said. “They made my day.”

Jonathan Gomez, 24, said his mother would have wanted the family together on the anniversary of her death.

"I just try and focus on the memories and stuff that we had, and time spent, instead of focusing on what happened that day a year ago,” he said.

Six months later, Argiro Gomez moved into a new house built on the same site. He said that his wife would have wanted him to stay at their home. The family dog, Jordan, who also survived the storm, lives there with him.

"This is my company right now,” he said of his pet.

A super-storm cell produced the tornadoes as it tracked north from Robeson County to Halifax County. Johnston and Wilson counties were the hardest hit, and the epicenter of destruction appeared to be Kenly.

The American Red Cross helped 60 families following the tornadoes. The organization provided more than 1,700 nights of shelter, and spent more than $67,000 responding to the victims’ needs.

North Carolina leads the country in the number of nighttime tornado fatalities and ranks 15th in total tornado deaths.

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