HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - There are families still mourning the four lives taken three years ago Tuesday by an EF-3 tornado. Many people still bear the physical and emotional scars, which undoubtedly reminds them of what they survived that night.
One of those survivors said she can only describe Jan. 21, 2017 as horrifying.
Hattiesburg resident Belle Lange said that night she and her granddaughter felt the house shake.
“It sounded like a train,” Lange said.
She said they were swept off their feet, and buried alive.
“...And everything just fell over us,” Lange said.
Before the tornado hit, Lange and her granddaughter were taking cover in the bathroom of her old home on Bowling Street in Hattiesburg. She said she recalled holding her granddaughter in a blanket as tight as she could.
“I was holding like it was the last hold,” Lange said.
Then, she said they were in the air.
“We were scooped up. I mean....scooped...up! All I could see was the rain falling down on us,” Lange said.
She said she was spinning and praying.
“We went round and round, and I just kept talking to the Lord and said, ‘Lord, let your will be done,’” Lange said.
They were thrown yards away. Lange said she and her granddaughter were in complete darkness, buried under pieces of her home for what she said felt like hours. Eventually, family members started searching for them in the rumble.
“There was a hole there and I kept shaking the wood until I could get my hand out, and when I got my hand out they spotted me,” Lange said.
Lange believes it was a miracle that she and her granddaughter were left with only a few scratches, bumps and bruises. Scars that she said faded, but not the memory of that night.
“That’s a horrifying feeling, and I hope I never have to go through that again,” Lange.
That’s a sentiment R3SM Executive Director Mavis Creagh knows too well. She said she and countless volunteers have been there for the people who called on R3SM for help after the 2017 tornado, including Lange.
“Even though we categorize the people as clients, Ms. Lange will always have a special place in our hearts,” Creagh said.
Volunteers worked tirelessly to build a new home for Lange, which she moved into in December 2018.
Creagh said Lange’s home was the first of more than 25 homes rebuilt by R3SM, its partners and volunteers since the EF-3′s destruction.
“Since the 2017 tornado, about, over these last few years, we have rebuilt 28 new constructions from the ground up, and also 60 repairs have been done in the Pine Belt community,” Creagh said.
Going from cinder blocks and wood, to giving someone a place to call home again isn’t easy, but it’s worth it, Creagh said.
“Sometimes we are turning over rocks trying to get funding, trying to get volunteers, trying to make all of these pieces fit together like a puzzle, but it just really takes you down a notch and really humbles you to see that you are changing peoples lives,” Creagh said.
Lange is one of those changed lives living in her new home.
“I just feel blessed,” Lange said.