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.

By Derek Burnett from Reader's Digest Magazine | November 2012

The Tot and the Twister: A Real-Life Tornado DramaPhotograph by Tom Hussey
As soon as the tornado left Diamond Creek, the subdivision began to fill with police, firefighters, and Good Samaritans. The air hissed with gas from sheared-off piping, and police officers tried to keep civilians away from the homes. An officer shouted to one neighbor to get away from Sherry’s house, but he waved him off, yelling, “There are people in there!”

Dazed, Sherry looked around. Laine was on her lap, shaken and crying. His mouth and nose were filled with mud and insulation, but he was unhurt, aside from a scratch on his arm. But there was no sign of Connor or Abigail. She tried to look for them, but she could not stand up. Spotting the neighbor, she called out for help.

“I’ll get you out, as soon as I can get through this debris.”

Debris? Then it hit her: She shouldn’t be able to see him. There were no windows in the middle bathroom. In fact, where was the middle bathroom? Looking about, she realized that she was in the open air, trapped in a small hole, up to her neck in wreckage. As the neighbor worked to free her, others rushed onto the scene. “There are two more kids,” Sherry said, passing Laine through the hole.

When they got her clear, she stood in her flip-flops with Laine in her arms, gaping at what, minutes earlier, had been her home. Nothing was intact except the master bathroom, where a four-foot piece of wall still stood with a crooked pipe and piece of board forming a weird cross at its top. Otherwise, the building was entirely flattened; she could look right over what was left of her house into the backyard. And what she saw there was three-year-old Connor, barefoot among the broken glass and wind-scattered nails, wandering soberly through the debris with no greater injury than a scrape on his head. A police officer scooped him up and carried him to his car.

“There’s one more,” Sherry yelled.

The police officer rushed back to the flattened house, two steps behind one of Sherry’s neighbors, who was following the sounds of a small child’s cries. They found Abigail where two walls had collapsed together leaving a tiny void, and they lifted her out of the rubble. She was scraped and bruised but not seriously injured.

Lindsey counted the houses on her mother’s street. The fourth house—Sherry’s—was nothing but an ugly pile of wood and glass and shingles. She felt the life drain out of her. Somewhere in all that mess, she assumed, lay the lifeless bodies of her mother and son. The police were telling her she couldn’t get any closer to the house, so she jumped the curb and parked in the grass, then ran through the field, losing her shoes in the mud. A firefighter stopped her.

“My mom and my baby. They were in here,” she yelled.

“The grandma and the baby?”

Lindsey burst through a neighbors’ door. There was her mother sitting on the couch, battered and bloodied, holding a muck-covered Laine. A thousand emotions washed over Lindsey. Horror and dread and relief and disbelief had all combined to reduce her to a kind of animal fury. As another sister, Ashley, took a step toward her, Lindsey inexplicably took a swing at her. She pounded on Ashley until she was pulled off, and she came to her senses. Sobbing, she enveloped Laine in her arms, then hugged her mother, repeating, “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m so sorry.”

The tornado that destroyed the Enochs home destroyed 73 homes in Diamond Creek, even while some nearby homes were barely touched. Thankfully, there were no fatalities.

Sherry has recovered physically, but emotionally it’s been hard. “We lost everything,” she says. “I’ll have a little meltdown every so often. I’ll just start crying.”

Laine refused to enter a bathtub for a week after the storm but now appears unfazed by the event. Mostly the family is just grateful and incredulous that their loved ones were spared. After the tornado, they found their tiny 14-year-old Chihuahua, Bella, alive and still in her crate, which had landed in the driveway. Their Pekingese and all the kittens and their mother survived unscathed. Only the goldfish perished.
Most of the family’s belongings were smashed or disappeared, with no pattern to what was spared. Sherry’s collection of glass angels survived intact. And Laine’s lightweight toddler bed never budged, although every adult bed in the house was lost.

No one knows how Connor ended up in the backyard or how Abigail came to be found down the hallway from the bathroom where they had taken shelter. Tim Marshall, a meteorologist, says it’s not uncommon for groups of people caught in twisters to end up in different places and to not know how they got there. “When you’re in a tornado, it’s a fog of rotating debris, with zero visibility,” he says. Factor in the overwhelming noise, and it’s easy to see how anyone would become completely disoriented. Still, Sherry is mystified: The bathtub in which she’d taken shelter was nowhere to be found. It had vanished, blown off to parts unknown.

The family lived with Megan until a new home was built just a stone’s throw from the ruins of their old place. Every day, Lindsey thinks about how her mother never let go of Laine. “It doesn’t surprise me, though,” she says. “My mother would do anything to protect a child. Anything.”

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