PIEDMONT — Donna Smith knew this storm was different from the others that had blown through the city.
For one thing, she said her husband, Jim, had never before urged the family to seek shelter underground.
On that stormy Tuesday, Jim Smith had looked at the darkening sky and told his wife and other family members to head for the cellar — pronto.
Donna Smith said she took one last look at all the beautiful trees that dotted her vast front yard before going to the cellar.
Soon, she heard the tornado thrashing its way across the Smith property on Remuda Street. Smith said she knew from the sounds overhead that the whirlwind was wreaking havoc. For the first time, she considered moving away from the home she loved, but she asked the Lord for direction.
“I told Him that I needed to see something. I said if my trees are all right, I'll stay,” Smith said.
Climbing out of the cellar to view the damage, among the first things she noticed were the trees: Not one had withstood the storm's fury. That settled that.
Then Smith said she walked through her house, with its roof mostly peeled away. Paper, insulation and other debris swirled at her feet as she surveyed the scene. Many of the walls had crumbled in the face of the tornadic winds. The house had been stripped to its wooden beams in many places.
Two large oil paintings that had been in Smith's family for years, one of The Last Supper and the other of Jesus, stood out.
That's because they were still hanging, by the barest of threads. Smith said she noticed that several decorative crosses she had hung throughout the house also remained hanging on studs, though the walls had given way around them.
Smith said the survival of the crosses and paintings seemed miraculous.
“My mom called me from Colorado and asked me, ‘Did the Jesus painting make it?'
For Smith, the Lord spoke in the midst of the storm.
Yes, her beloved trees were gone, but His presence still surrounded her. None of her family members were injured in the tornado, and their heirloom paintings also remained intact.
“People ever wonder if there is a God, something like this needs to happen to you,” Smith said.