A Christmas Tornado Ana Will Never Forget

Ana Van de Venter, staff contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region

American Red Cross North Texas employee, Ana Van de Venter, provides a powerful testimonial about losing her family home to an EF4 tornado the day after Christmas.

On this week, exactly three years ago, 12 tornadoes hit north and central Texas. Thirteen people lost their lives, including an infant. December 26 will always be a day that I remember, not only because that is the day we lost our family home, but it serves as a reminder of how there are much more important things in life than material possessions.

The afternoon of December 26, 2015, had been a quiet one until about 6 p.m. My husband and I had just switched on the local evening news to see the weather report. They were reporting possible formations around the Rowlett/Garland area. Growing up in Texas had left me somewhat numb to tornado watches. Sometimes you hear about tornadoes hitting rural areas, but you don’t ever think it’ll hit such a populated area – much less that it will impact you.

My husband suggested that I call my parents to check in, just in case. My dad said that he had just finished working on the yard and that all was quiet.

Little did we know that not even 10 minutes after we got off the phone with him, a powerful EF4 tornado would tear through our home.

Ana’s family home demolished by an EF4 tornado on December 26, 2015.

My dad says all he heard was the sound of a freight train coming towards the house. He had always heard that the safest place during a tornado was an interior room or bathtub. He ran for the master bathroom, and barely had enough time to close the door and cover his head with his hands.

As bricks, wood, and other debris broke through the bathroom door, he said all he could do was pray.

Master bathroom where Ana’s father took cover was the old part of the house still standing after being demolished by a tornado.

It’s truly a miracle that he walked out of that house with just minor injuries.

In the days that followed we felt lost. What do you do when you’ve lost all your material possessions?

Ana’s father’s truck in what was the master bedroom, with her mother’s vehicle flipped upside down in the background.

Through Facebook we learned of the Multi-Agency Resource Center for the tornado victims. After receiving their Red Cross case work number, my parents were able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing they were in good hands. They received Red Cross care packages that include toothbrushes, toothpaste, a comb, and other essentials.

They had everything we didn’t even realize we needed.

Community devastated by an EF4 tornado on December 26, 2015.

While this was the hardest thing our family has gone through, we’ll always remember how wonderful people can be. We wouldn’t be where we are now without the American Red Cross and their partner agencies.

I choose to work for the American Red Cross, because I have seen what they do for families in the face of disasters big and small. But none of this would be possible without the generosity of supporters who contribute their time and finances to ensure victims, like my family, can experience hope in the face of chaos.

Thank you to everyone who supports the American Red Cross, and especially for those who helped my family when we needed it most. We wish everyone safe and happy holidays.

To see how you can support families after disasters visit redcross.org.

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