By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – It’s been over two weeks since a towering oak tree came crashing down on the Central Street house of Donald and Sherry Gray and they are still counting their blessings. They were sitting in a den in the back of their home after church on Sunday, March 11, when the huge tree fell directly across the den.
“It was like a bomb went off,” Donald recalled as he described the deafening noise, the entire house shaking and debris flying everywhere. He estimated it took at least 20 seconds before everything got quiet, a span that seemed like an eternity. During that time visibility where they were sitting was completely obscured by falling debris and he couldn’t see Sherry, who was sitting only a few feet away.
“I don’t think I have ever been that scared in my life. I knew I was alive but I thought she was dead,” Gray said. “I was a little closer to the wall and had a little more protection.”
It was the third time he frantically called for her before she answered, and by that time it was eerily quiet. Her words were, “get me out.”
“I moved one big rafter to get her out, I actually can’t budge that rafter now,” Gray said, citing the rush of adrenaline as he was able to free her. Their son, Conner was also in the house, thankfully farther away from the impact, and also could not get to his parents.
“The doorway was blocked and rafters were down. I told him to go out the front door and call 911,” Donald said. It took a little more time before Sherry and Donald were able to exit the house and see what happened.
“She thought is was a tornado,” Donald said, thinking back to the initial seconds as they were trying to get out of the house after he was able to free her.
The aftermath was horrendous as floors buckled and walls came down as much of the house was affected. The tree also hit a vent pipe and drove it like a missile through the garage, which is located underneath their house. Both cars in the garage, the two newer vehicles were not damaged, but limbs damaged two vehicles there were parked outside the garage.
The near misses are what the family is chalking up to divine intervention after the couple only sustained minor bruises and scrapes during the ordeal. It could have been a very different outcome – the big ceiling rafters fell directly between the chair and ottoman where Sherry had been sitting just a few minutes earlier before moving to an adjacent couch. Conner was not in the back of the house when the tree fell and was not injured.
And even with all of the damage, a large limb protruding from the side of the tree was driven deep into the ground and helped provide some support for the downed tree.
“I truly believe if that limb had not been there, we would have both been dead,” Donald explained.
“People who don’t believe that the Lord protects you and in divine intervention, I will testify,” Gray said about the experience.
That night they went to their son’s house to spend the night, but it was a restless night.
“We laid there and talked,” Donald said. “It’s still hard on her to go back in.”
They have lived there for 22 years after purchasing it from Sherry’s parents – the same house her parents built and she grew up in. For the time being they have removed all of their furniture and belongings from the home and relocated to a temporary residence while awaiting a final verdict from the insurance company on whether it can be fixed or will be totaled.
“We always thought if that tree did fall, it would go the other way,” Donald added.