The Tot and the Twister: A Real-Life Tornado Drama

When a tornado struck near their hometown of Forney, Texas, the Enochs almost lost it all: Here's the amazing story behind how they held on.

The Tot and the Twister: A Real-Life Tornado DramaPhotograph by Tom Hussey
On April 3, 2012, in the Diamond Creek subdivision of Forney, Texas, the Enochs family awoke to an ordinary day. Sherry Enochs, 52, saw her husband, Mike, off to his job in nearby Dallas and her 15-year-old son, Denver, off to school. Then she opened the doors of her at-home day care to the two small children she would be watching that day. At around 11:30, Sherry’s daughter Lindsey, 22, kissed her 19-month-old son, Laine, left him in her mother’s care, and hurried off to her own day care job.

Quiet, strong, and compassionate, Sherry Enochs had spent her life taking care of everyone. She had raised five children of her own and was a doting grandmother. Today, in addition to Laine and the two children she was watching—19-month-old Abigail and three-year-old Connor—the house was home to two dogs (a Pekingese and an ancient two-pound Chihuahua), a mother cat with a newborn litter of kittens in a playpen in the bedroom, and a couple of goldfish.

Around midday, she got a call from her daughter Megan, 26, who was five months pregnant and living about seven miles away in Heartland. “Look at the TV, Mom,” she said.

On-screen, news crews were showing footage from Lancaster, just 30 miles away, of a tornado hurling tractor-trailers around.

“Is it coming this way?” asked Sherry.

“No. It sounds like it’s going to stay west of Forney.”

Relieved, Sherry turned her attention back to the children, busying herself to such an extent that she never heard the sirens warning residents to seek shelter. Laine was in his toddler bed watching a cartoon. Connor and Abigail were playing on the floor. Then Sherry’s cell rang: Megan again.

“Mom, look outside!” This time, there was a note of urgency in her voice.

Sherry went down the hallway to her bedroom. She looked out the window, and her heart lodged in her throat. A tornado was tearing across the open field adjacent to the subdivision. It was massive—a great vaporous funnel with a dogleg bend in it tapering down to an earthward point all the more menacing for its slender, stylus-like precision. Behind it the sky was black, and at its edges bits of debris were churning as it passed over businesses across the way. Was that the dry cleaner’s? she thought. A jagged bolt of lightning fired inside the funnel. The twister’s path was now obvious: It was heading right into Diamond Creek.

“It’s here, Megan,” Sherry yelled. “The tornado is here!”

Keeping Megan on the phone, she ran down the hall to the front room. There she scooped up Laine and Abigail and hustled Connor back up the hallway and into the middle bathroom. “Get in the tub,” she ordered the bewildered kids. The Enochses had no cellar, so the tub would be the safest place to take cover.

She climbed into the bathtub and sat Abigail and Connor shoulder-to-shoulder, placing her legs over them. She felt confident they’d stay still, but Laine was panicking, so she clutched him in her lap facing her.

Through the phone Megan heard the roar of the tornado and something else she’d never heard before: Her mother screaming. Then the phone went dead.

“Mom? Mom!”

For two minutes, Megan called her mother’s name. Then she sank to her knees, sobbing.

The storm sucked harder, nearly yanking the boy free. “I’m losing him!” Sherry shouted.

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