Posted on June 9, 2011
By Kristen Buckles
Despite having lost her home and almost everything she owns because of the April tornadoes, Pamela Ward is exclaiming her praise to God -- for multiple reasons.
First, Ward is thankful that she and her family, including her three daughters and her husband, made it safely through the storms.
Second, she is grateful because East Tennesseans as far as Kingsport have stepped up to help her family during this difficult time.
Finally, Ward is thankful because on Monday morning $30,200 was deposited into her family's account from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
According to Susan Solomon, an official with FEMA, that amount is the maximum amount an individual may receive for housing assistance.
Ward said that she received the news via a Friday telephone call from a FEMA official, just two days after she presented her case to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
Alexander met Ward at the FEMA post located at Camp Creek Elementary during his tour of the storm-damaged areas on June 1, more than a month after the tornadoes struck.
Ward recalls being "overjoyed" as she heard the good news during the Friday telephone conversation with FEMA officials.
"It was a great blessing. I was kind of speechless at first," she said. "Kevin [Ward, her husband,] thought it was bad news because I was crying."
Alexander said in a recent telephone interview that he has been pleased by FEMA's work and efforts and that he was "pleasantly surprised" by how well everyone -- officials and community members alike -- is working together to restore the area and help the victims.
"I thought the example of Pamela Ward ... was a typical example more than a special case," Alexander said. "Not every case works that quickly, but many do."
For those whose case has not had the same happy ending, Alexander has two recommendations.
The first is to contact FEMA. "Don't miss an opportunity," Alexander advised. Those who are eligible will likely get a fast response, he said.
Alexander's second recommendation is to remember that the "federal help will not make anyone whole." It can only help those who did not have insurance "get back on their feet," he said.
In Ward's instance, the family believed themselves to be insured, but the insurance only covered their mortgage.
As a result, the family lived in a local motel for weeks after the tornadoes. Their aid dried up two nights before they met Alexander in Camp Creek, which meant they were paying for the motel out of their own pocket.
"We could not afford to stay in that motel, even at a discounted rate," Pamela said.
The funds FEMA gave the Wards are allowing them to move forward in purchasing a new mobile home to replace the one that they lost in the storms.
Thanks to the generosity of Johnny Christian, of Luv Homes in Kingsport, the family set up a borrowed camper on their land on Wednesday. They anticipate being able to remain there while they wait for their new home.
Their previous home, at 860 Dunham Rd. in the Horse Creek community, was a three-bedroom single-wide mobile home that had just recently been renovated.
"I just absolutely loved my kitchen," Pamela Ward recalled, sharing details about her recently installed smooth-top stove and new cabinets.
Today, little evidence remains of the Ward home, which the tornado lifted across their neighbor's yard.
"We have to start completely over," she said. "It picked it up and just shredded it in the woods. All we had was just a few blocks left on the land. It just demolished it all."
Husband Kevin did not seek shelter at a nearby brick home with the rest of the family. Instead, he remained on their property to watch the lightning display.
While sitting in his pickup truck, Kevin Ward saw the funnel cloud.
He went to his knees on the floorboard and recorded the audio on his cell phone as the funnel passed overhead.
In just one minute, 25 seconds, the tornado tore away their home, backyard building and pool.
Kevin Ward's audio recording marked the time, during which he told Pamela he kept thinking, "Please go away, please go away."
Miraculously, the tornado only lifted and bounced the truck, leaving it on the property and allowing Kevin to escape unharmed.
It was just after 1 a.m. when Kevin Ward climbed back into his seat, unable to see through the darkness. He turned on his headlights to find that only a few blocks and spurting water remained where his home had stood just minutes before.
"All this other stuff is completely replaceable," Pamela Ward said, thankful for her family's safety.
In fact, she said she would like to "thank everybody from the bottom of my heart for all the support and the help we have received."
Many in the community have rallied around the family to help them with toiletries, food and other needed supplies, she said.
On Saturday, the Wards traveled around searching for a new mobile home that they could both enjoy and afford. Although it may be a month or more before their new home is in place, Pamela Ward is thrilled with the progress.
"Knowing that we're working to that point -- it's just such a big relief," she said.