When Greenbrier residents Matt and Kari Barnett went to sleep Sunday night, they knew thunderstorms in the area were expected.
Kari said storms are not something the Barnetts are scared of.
When Matt received a weather alert or a significant weather event, she said they both rolled over and went back to sleep.
When the power went out shortly before 1 a.m. Monday morning, Kari said she was woken up and could hear wind outside thinking the storm had finally made its way to their area, but still didn’t think it was a big deal.
She said she was lying there and, all of a sudden, she heard a roar and considered whether she should be worried.
“Then, it was coming at me, like you know, it got really loud really fast,” Kari said. “I could tell it was headed for us.”
She said she woke Matt, who sat straight up, and then they both heard terrible sounds – an EF-1 tornado had touched down in Faulkner County at 12:53 a.m.
“We jump[ed] out of bed,” Kari said.
The Barnetts have three sons: Grady, 17, Griffin, 14, and Garrin, 11.
She said Grady and Garrin’s room is near theirs and after checking on them, Matt ran up to Griffin’s room to get him, which was located above the garage.
To get to that portion of the house, Kari said Matt had to go through the kitchen and when he did, he heard the roof being torn off the house.
Kari said they looked up and could see the pillars of the house, unattached, and then water started rushing in.
She said they started grabbing anything they could to catch the water.
During this time, Kari said Matt made his way outside to see how bad the damage was and came back to tell her the whole front section of the house was gone.
“He didn’t realize [at first] it was quite that bad,” she said.
Kari said she called her parents who live on the other side of Greenbrier to tell them what happened.
“I was real cool when I was calling but as soon as [my dad] answered the phone I completely lost it,” she said.
After calling the police to let them know what happened, Kari said they gathered up their electronics and made their way out of there finally getting to her parent’s around 2:30 a.m. while Matt stayed behind to watch the house.
“Of course we didn’t sleep,” she said.
Around 6 a.m. Matt said the ceiling started falling in.
Kari said they’ve been off all week trying to figure out what to do next.
“We just kind of stood around and were sad for the first couple of days,” she said. “We couldn’t really move anything out. The insurance adjuster had to come. We were kind of on standby I guess.”
Luckily, Kari’s parents own a rent house and were in need of tenants.
She said they moved out what they could and All-Clean USA — an Arkansas-based company that specializes in 24-hour disaster recovery cleanup services— brought a crew out to pack everything up, take it, clean the items that were exposed to the water and insulation, and repack it all, is taking car of the rest.
“It’s like a miracle,” she said, adding that was the last thing she wanted to worry about.
Kari said the adjuster is done and they’ve been told they are going to be fine.
Now, she said, they are waiting to be told what’s next: whether they will need to rebuild which could take 4-6 months or if it can be salvaged and repaired which could 8-9 months until they’re back in their house.
Keri said her sons, especially Garrin who offered up his $152 in birthday money for anything the family needs, are struggling a bit.
“[Garrin’s] playing it too cool,” she said. “He just joked and made fun of his room, you know, having a sky light but it’s his room and all his stuff is just covered. It’s all trash.”
Griffin and Grady seem ok.
“[Griffin] realized how close that was, you know, and so we have a moment every once in a while,” Keri said. “But, he’s alive and that’s what I told him.”
The whole experience with people reaching out and taking care of them, she said, has also led to a teaching moment with her children who have asked why people are supporting them.
“It’s just something that you do to help because there’s not a whole lot that you can do to help and so it makes other people feel helpful when they do things like [that],” Keri said.
She said the whole family is strong in their faith.
“I joke about why it happened,” Keri said. “You shouldn’t question why or try to figure it out or anything but it’s kind of a laugh to keep from crying situation and so I’m like, you know, I wanted new floors anyway.”
She said they’re making progress and that’s what is helping them move forward.
Keri said she’s lived in Greenbrier her whole life and has always known “that Greenbrier is the best place in the world,” and how great her support system was but now she’s seen that acted out.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I knew that we were this kind of place, this kind of community, but this is the first time I’ve really seen it. We do things for each other but I’ve never been on the receiving end of it and I’ve never seen it on this scale before so I’m very proud.”
Keri said so many people have reached out to help, offering dinner, snacks, money, their time and services and more .
“We almost feel guilty for having so much love from other people,” she said. “You just have this feeling that you’ll never repay that, you know, and so it’s almost guilt, in a good way. What did we do to deserve this. It’s really been a blessing in the long run when you look at it. We’re safe.”
Keri said they made it out with what’s important.
“Those kids were in their bed with a roof over their head when we got to them,” she said. “Everything else can be fixed. It’ll all be taken care of.”
Keri said their lives will forever be defined as ‘before the tornado,’ and “after the tornado,” and feels like her sons have changed because of it.
“I think they’ve learned a lot about humanity and just having compassion and loving your neighbor,” she said. “They’re learning a lot, and it’s a big lesson to learn when you’re a kid.”