Black Hawk, MS (March 29, 2023) “I wasn’t scared for me,” said Gary. “But I was scared for my family.”
The Salvation Army roving unit encountered 71-year-old Gary, attempting to salvage the original wooden floor from what used to be his home church. The floor, somehow still mostly intact, lies crooked and lopsided atop a bed of rubble that would have been the church sanctuary.
Gary was born and raised in Black Hawk, a historic, close-knit community in North Mississippi, where he raised his own family. He is a man of deep faith and raised his family in the century-old church he was baptized as a child. In fact, all of Gary’s children and most of his grandchildren were baptized in the historic Black Hawk Independent Church. Two of Gary's five children were even married in that church.
The evening of the tornado, Gary, his wife, and his son drove to the vacant church parsonage, which sits adjacent to the church built in 1902, because “it just felt safe.”
Greg and his family didn’t even have time to exit the truck when they heard the ‘train sound.’
“It was raining, and then there was an eerie calm followed by thunderous hail,” said Gary. “And then my truck windows just exploded.”
The tornado demolished the church first, ripping the roof off and hurtling it towards the parsonage, where it landed just inches away from Gary’s truck.
Gary could feel the violent rocking of his truck as it passed over and said it was only the hand of God that held his truck to the ground. The parsonage crumbled around his truck like matchsticks, throwing wood debris through the broken windows, gashing his wife’s head.
“I don’t know how we survived it,” said Gary. “I guess I’m a testimony to God’s goodness.”
The Salvation Army roving unit was dispatched to harder-to-reach locations and included a certified grief coach to assist in emotional and spiritual support for survivors.
“In speaking with Gary and listening to his account of what happened, I can’t even begin to imagine what they were feeling. All I can think of is what faith and belief in God this family has in that they recognize it was God’s Hand protecting them through it all,” said Lt. Roy Fisher of Meridian.