Survivor Story: Cecil Hawkins

By Carrie Coppernoll Modified: May 1, 2009 at 4:19 pm •  Published: May 1, 2009

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DEL CITY — Cecil Hawkins lay flat on his stomach in the grass, eyeing the maple tree in his back yard as the tornado ripped off all the branches. If the tornado didn't knock that tree on him, he thought, he'd survive.

The tree was still standing and Hawkins lived, though the storm ripped apart the Del City home he'd lived in for nearly 50 years.

“After losing all the things, the Lord gave me a peace of mind that he was going to take care of me,” said Hawkins, who is now 84. “I usually cry about anything that amounted to anything, but that tornado, I didn't cry.”

Hawkins grew up in Harmon County, where he met his future wife, LaFern. They married in March 1947 and soon after moved to their home in Del City. He repaired lawnmowers and appliances for a living, and he and his wife spent a decade as Baptist missionaries in Mexico. LaFern died in 1998, so Hawkins was living alone the night of May 3, 1999.

He heard the tornado coming, and ran to the back yard to get into the cellar. The wind was too strong, and Hawkins couldn't pull the door open. He gave up and headed back for the house, but the wind knocked him over. He lay on his back yard as the storm passed overhead, sucking away his home.