Sitting in the King family’s comfortable living room on Pheasant Kreek Circle, it seems like a stretch that two months ago they didn’t have a toothbrush or a change of clothes. But their rent house has been made cozy only thanks to donations from many who responded to the need following the April 27 tornado. Wayne and Ann King of Vilonia lived on Hauser Lane and lost everything the day the tornado hit.
"There were nine houses in there, and there were two when it was over," Wayne said.
In about a week of the storm, the couple moved from the their lost four-bedroom home to a borrowed camper and finally to the tiny rent house, where they are rebuilding their lives and searching for a new home.
"We have good days and bad days," Wayne said. "I have never been so depressed in my life, although we’ve been blessed. You get up in the morning and you think about it. We’ve been married 51 years, and what we’ve accumulated — it’s gone. We’re right back where we started 51 years ago. Still, we’re blessed."
The home’s living room is outfitted with matching furniture and a television. The adjoining dining area has a small table. The couple said a group from Shreveport donated all the furniture.
"It helped us so much," Ann said. "They were not the only ones. People were so good to us. We were so thankful."
The Kings were attending services at Centerpoint Freewill Baptist Church when the tornado struck. The church has a basement, and everyone in attendance sheltered there as well as many people from the surrounding area, they said. When it was over, they had difficulty getting to their property because the road was blocked by trees. When they finally managed to access their homestead, the headlights shone on the spot where the house should have been and revealed it was gone.
"My 13-year-old granddaughter was with us, and she started screaming when she saw the house was gone," Wayne said. "Everything was gone. I had two trucks at the house. One of them was in a tree. The other one was in the front yard, and they were just mangled."
Ann said many large items from the home simply vanished, such as the refrigerator, stove and freezer.
"We had four bedrooms full of furniture. We haven’t seen a dresser. We haven’t seen a chest," she said.
Wayne added, "Even our tractor was torn to pieces. Our four wheeler was down the road."
The couple has sustained property loss three times due to weather events in Vilonia now. The first time straight-line winds destroyed their camper. The second time was the 2011 tornado, which took off half their roof and destroyed a second camper. The third time has left them seeking a home. While they own five acres on Hauser Lane, they have decided not to rebuild there.
"She says ‘I can’t go back there,’ and I don’t blame her," Wayne said. "We’d like to stay in the Vilonia area. We’re looking for a house. We’re getting too old to build.
Although they have suffered loss, they are quick to speak well of all those who have helped in the recovery effort.
Ann said, "A group from Samaritan’s Purse came to help clean up (debris). They got down on their hands and knees, marked out a section and scratched with their fingers. They found some jewelry that way. They did a great job."
Wayne said the support during the cleanup was very good.
"Every time you turned around, someone was there offering food, water or supplies," he said.
The couple is grateful for all the assistance getting back on their feet, but they say it will take time to feel normal again.
"It’s getting better," Wayne said. "In the beginning it was just about every day she’d wake up crying, and that would get me started. Things are getting better."
To donate items to tornado victims, call the Faulkner County Donation Center at 501-336-3936 or the Arkansas Dream Center Donation Center at 501-232-0630.
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)