Tuscaloosa fireman Reginald Eppes was at home with his family when the tornadoes swept through his neighbourhood this week.As the winds pounded his home he ran from room to room collecting his children, but as he reached for his eldest son Reginald Jr., on his top bunk, a tornado broke through and sucked the boy from his mattress into the air.
His son miraculously survived, and both father and son are recovering in an Alabama hospital.
NPR affiliate WBUR’s Michelle Norris interviewed Eppes from his hospital bed. Here are some highlights.
NORRIS: What happened yesterday?
Mr. EPPES: Alarms went off at 5 o’clock, and my wife got up. And she does her routine. She does her normal reading and praying in the morning, and I walked into the kitchen. And right when I did that, the wind started howling really good … And my wife actually and she says we need to get the kids up, and I said oh.
NORRIS: The kids were still in bed at that point.
Mr. EPPES: …So we run to the boys’ room. She gets the baby boy. I get the middle child – I have three sons. And I said, R.J., which is my older son, get up, son. And right when I said get up and I put my hands on him, the walls went, and he went. He just – he left. The tornado took him right then…It was like somebody just had a slingshot on him, a rope or a rubber band and had traction on that rubber band and pulled him away. It was just that quick. And you could see nothing. You just feel I got – I think I got hit by the washing machine because that’s what I could see beside me because I got fractured ribs and a deflated lung from it.
Nurses at the hospital told Eppes, “He said he went up, and he said he just floated back down to the ground.”
Reginald Jr. said he found his way back to the remains of his home by the flashlights his parents were using to find their way through the rubble.