The night of February the 5th unleashed a series of tornadoes across Middle and West Tennessee after an abnormally warm afternoon.
As Terra Qualls said in her own words, “her family of four was left lying on the ground in the rubble that was once their home.”
“Everybody went to work and school that day, “ said Michelle Qualls, whose husband, Terry, works for his dad, Jerry, at Qualls Auto Salvage. “It was a normal day for all of us and I cooked supper that night, even baking Terry's favorite homemade cookies.”
The Qualls saw bad weather forecast on television, but weren't concerned because it appeared to be turning in another direction.
Terra and her younger sister, Haley, stayed up watching TV after Terry and Michelle decided to go ahead and turn in, convinced there was no danger from the impending severe weather.
But within minutes it became obvious that Macon County was in danger as the hail and wind grew extremely loud and the electricity went out.
Terra remembers her mom getting out of bed and the three of them got down in the hallway, “but Dad was still in bed, sleeping heavily. Mom shined the flashlight toward the bedroom and yelled for him, but he didn't hear us. That's the last thing I remember hearing besides a huge roar. Then, I shut my eyes.”
“Mom had her arms around Haley and me in the hallway,” Terra continued, “but as the roof was torn off, we were both instantly sucked upward away from her. Thinking back, it was like riding a violent roller coaster. It's funny how I have always loved thrill rides. Not to much the huge ones that drop you, but I love the rides that just suspend you and flip you over and over and side to side. At that time, I felt the same way, but it was awful. I was flipping head over heels like a limp rag doll. I kept my eyes shut but never lost consciousness. I remember thinking my neck felt so stressed that it was about to break, so I put my arms up around my head. All I could think about was if it was all really happening.”
“Lots of debris hit me during all of this,” Terra remembers, “but it didn't hurt at the time. It seems like I was airborne forever, but suddenly I hit the ground hard and opened my eyes. I was lying in mud and sand with lots of it in my mouth. I was not in pain, just felt very strange and confused.”
“The reality set in when I heard Haley screaming for Mom,” Terra said, “as I reached behind me and felt her laying there. The wind was still blowing dangerously and Haley jumped up. I finally told her to lay back down and shut up, and she began praying loudly for the Lord to save her soul.”
The wind died down and everything got eerily quiet.
“Thankfully we heard our parents screaming for us,” recalls Terra, “and we made our way toward them. Mom was lying under some debris and Dad had landed beside his truck in the driveway.”
If people could have heard all four of the Qualls family shouting, they probably would have thought they were crazy, standing there in the pouring rain, barefooted, screaming, “Thank you God” over and over.
“Dad said we had to find somewhere to go immediately,” Terra said, “and Tony, our neighbor's son, came running up and told us to follow him to his parents house.”
“We walked through all kinds of debris and Mom kept tripping because her foot was cut and Dad kept stepping on nails. Haley was still screaming and I was actually in shock.”
“When we got to Jen and Ronnie's house, they immediately began helping us, bringing us house slippers and blankets, and washing the mud from our numerous cuts and scratches.”
Terry was bleeding badly from his ear, leg, and both hands and Michelle's foot was obviously badly broken. Haley had blood all over her face from cuts on her forehead and Terra had a bad gash down her face and couldn't hardly sit down due to severe pain.
“The damage everywhere was so terrible,” Terra remarked “that it was hours before the EMT's could even get to us, but when they did, everyone came together to get my family taken care of. Ronnie Steen pulled his truck up to the back door of the house and we rode on the back to an ambulance parked in the street. Ronnie and his wife, Barbara, actually picked up my Mom and sat her in the ambulance.”
“The ambulance took us straight to Sumner Regional Emergency Room where everyone treated us wonderfully. Haley and I were kept close together, but Mom and Dad were immediately sent separate ways on stretchers. Our family and friends, who arrived shortly after, were allowed to stay with us. The staff was great as they stitched Haley and me up and they kept telling us how our parents were doing, which we were thankful for.”
Terra had two cuts on her face stitched up, a broken tailbone, and muscle damage. Michelle suffered a broken left foot and a bruised body. Haley had a broken toe and lots of cuts and scratches, and Terry had stitches in both hands, an ear, and had a badly hurt leg.
“But we were all alive,” Terra said, “and lucky to be so, I might add.”
“You never realize how quick your life can change,” Michelle said. “Sometimes things are just completely out of your hands, but you can always depend on the Lord. He took care of us; we owe our lives to Him, and believe me, we thank Him in prayer every night.”
“We would also like to thank the Red Cross, FEMA, Tooley & Carver, the police, ambulances, Church of Christ, Days Cross Roads Missionary Baptist Church, other local churches, family and friends, Teddy Wix Construction Co., the Law family, Powell Construction, Ronnie and Barbara Steen, Ricky Wilson, and Debra Dean.”
“And last, but not least, thank you for all the prayers on our behalf.”
“God bless you all!”