Built with love
By Kathryn Schiliro
Tornado survivor’s seven children help her build a new home
Seated in the foyer of her new home, JoAn Clyde recounts her experience of April 28, 2011, the day an F-2 tornado ripped through her Weaver Jones Road residence.
Flashback nearly a year: Clyde's sons –there are six of them, five with construction-related expertise – just completed a major remodeling of Clyde's house.
On April 28, 2011, Clyde had fallen asleep on the couch, watching The Weather Channel. She woke up around 1 a.m. to no lights and a pitch-black sky. Upon stepping outside, "the wind just whipped me around."
She went inside, closed the screen door, then the front door. Then, at about 1:15 a.m., like a train, the tornado came.
"I cried out, 'Lord, help me!'" Clyde said. "It felt like the house was on a ship in the ocean."
A minute later, it was over. Most of her house was no more.
The front of the house didn't look so bad, she said. Inside, various sundries had fallen out of the cupboard and her Amazon parrot and its cage – which has rolling wheels – had shifted. Outside, her carport and workshop were gone, her washing machine was a half-mile down the road and her house had been lifted up and set back down again.
"When the tornado came, it really devastated me because I thought I'd lost everything my family had done," Clyde said. "People from the city told me this was the worst hit house in the county; it was the only house that was completely destroyed."
Amazingly enough, Clyde escaped the ordeal without physical injury, as did her parrot, three cats and one dog (another dog sustained injuries and disappeared). Moe, her 8-year-old black Lab, wouldn't come down from upstairs; it wasn't until the next day that Clyde could coax him to come down. She called her daughter, Joy, who lived (and still does) across the street.
For the rest of the night, Clyde and nearby family helped her neighbors, who raise exotic birds, capture escaped birds, as the barn where the birds lived had been completely destroyed.
"So we spent the night looking for birds, then we went to Waffle House for breakfast," Clyde said. "When the sun came up, I realized what had happened, what was left of the house... I thought, 'Why me? Why me?'"
State Farm was at Clyde's house by 9 a.m. that morning. By the time they left, she had a check in her hand. She got what she could together and moved in with Joy. Some time later, she would rent a guest house in which to live.
Clyde credits the Lord, and tithing, with saving her.
"I believe in paying tithes, that He'll help me in times of trouble," Clyde said. "That's exactly what happened."
Then, the construction crew, made up of all seven of her children, moved in. Work on Clyde's new house began.
Micah, a Master Carpenter, acted as the builder and also constructed a beautiful fireplace in the foyer; John, Clyde's oldest, and David handled the paint and roof; Timothy did the tile work; George did "some of everything," Clyde said; Chris, who's in college, helped out where he could; and Joy handled the finances and, with JoAn, the interior decorating.
"The Lord blessed me abundantly," Clyde said of her children, and her new home.
The new house is a three bedroom, two bathroom structure. The pre-tornado house had two floors; Clyde decided she wanted the new house to be primarily a one-story, although there is a game room for her 17 grandchildren upstairs now. She's even got a walk-in closet that she remains in awe of.
"I love my closet – you can get dressed in there," she said of the space.
Micah's status as a Master Carpenter means he's worked around the region; recently, he's done some remodeling work for University of Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt. When Richt learned of what happened to Clyde, he donated his front door, which was sanded down by Clyde's sons and repainted. Micah also got his hands on WSB-TV Channel 2 Anchor Chuck Dowdle's chandelier, which now hangs in Clyde's dining room.
"It's a dream house for me, and I thought I lost everything," Clyde said.
And her "everything" includes memories. Clyde bought the pre-tornado house 15 years ago with her husband, who lost his battle with cancer about 10 years ago. She's confident, though, that with seven children and 17 grandchildren, not to mention that the house was constructed entirely by her sons, that new memories will surely be made.
"I (already) have new memories that are even more (poignant) than the other ones," she said.
Clyde's Christmas card for 2011 has a picture of her with all of her children on it. Above it, words she lives by: "Believe in love, in faith, in miracles."
Printed in the February 2, 2012 edition