Royce and Monica Becker are farmers. They have five children ranging from five to thirteen years of age. They purchased their house in 2001, completely remodeling it in 2012. Royce works with his father, full time on the family farm. His wife Monica works at a dairy and raises their children. In her spare time she works with her husband. Today is May 28th, 2013. It starts no differently than any other day.
4:00 m: Monica is home with the kids when she gets a call from her boss telling her that they’re under a tornado warning. Ethan, their oldest son, wakes the younger ones from their naps and gets them in to the basement. After a phone call from Monica, Royce arrives just in time to see a rope funnel forming to the west. With the kids safely downstairs, Monica goes outside to take some photos with her husband.
4:05pm: Monica looks to the southwest and describes the scene that unfolds. “Within seconds the clouds lower and several small funnels start dropping. You can see the dirt coming off the ground.” The funnels are dropping about ¾ of a mile from their house, lingering and threatening. Now, concern for their own safety takes precedence, as they join their family in their basement, huddling in a shower stall and covering themselves with quilts while they wait for the inevitable.
The prelude: glass shattering, boards straining, creaking and snapping as they break away from the house. A tree falling and then, silence... Then it hits. The sound is like a thousand high speed trains passing right over head. The wind screams at deafening levels as it rushes through a disintegrating house, tearing at the floorboards, the only layer of protection standing between the Becker family and the destruction above. The tornado lingers directly overhead for several minutes before it moves on. Then hail, signaling that the worst has passed.
4:30pm: Royce and Monica check the family for injuries and then move to the stairs. The daylight she sees, tells her that there is no house left. She goes back to reassure her children. "Guys- we are fine! No one has a scratch! Those are just things- we can get new stuff. As long as we are okay, it’s fine!" In what seems like no time at all, over one hundred neighbors and friends arrive and begin the process of hauling off debris, clearing a path for vehicles, and moving salvageable items under cover.
6:30pm: The Red Cross is on scene. The Red Cross volunteers assess the Becker’s needs, gathering information and making sure they have suitable accommodations for the night. Monica reassures them that the family is ok for the night. Given the scope of destruction that the family is dealing with, the Becker’s aren’t able to spend much time with the team. They set a plan to come back out the following morning.
10:00am: A team is mobilized and sent back out to assist. They provide the Becker’s with clothing, hygiene kits and financial assistance and listening ears. Monica relates the following, “The financial assistance is a weight lifted off my shoulders, allowing us to get urgently needed items.” With it, she is able to get pillows, blankets, clothing, towels, shoes, and special ‘blankies’ that the young ones lost. The Red Cross makes sure to verify that they have a place to stay. Fortunately the Becker’s have family living close by.
Looking back, it was the longest twenty-five minutes of their life. They lost a house, three sheds, three grain bins, two combines, a tractor/trailer and more. All total, close to one million dollars worth of machinery and property destroyed, tossed around like paper. Despite that fact, they’ve dug in and recovered.
Rebuilding in the same spot was not something they even thought twice about. Even without a house on the property, it was still ‘home’, and that’s where they were going to stay. They moved in to their new home on October 11th, not quite five months after the devastating tornado had passed. While their new house is nice, there is still an absence, memories of things lost. Yet there are new memories to be made.
Looking back, the Becker’s are very thankful that they all came through it alive. Monica shared that the hardest thing to do was to receive. “The Red Cross showed up and gave us relief cards and all I could think was, I don’t deserve this.”
She also has advice for those facing similar situations, where friends and neighbors come to help, expecting nothing in return. She admonishes others, “When people want to help, let them! You learn to smile and say thank you.”
To add a fateful and ironic twist to this story, on the morning of the tornado, a day that started like any other, Monica was gathering boxes of her own clothes and those of her daughter to send to a friend who’d lost their home in the Moore tornado.