Gilles Brothers’ Story About Tornado Attack & Details Of Recovery

by Bobby Gilles

in Exhortations And Musings,Interviews

Collin (middle) visits his siblings Caleb & Mia Gilles in the hospital yesterday.

Thank you for the outpouring of love and all the prayers we’ve received after the tornado that destroyed the home of our brother Darrell, his wife Tricia and their kids Caleb, Collin and Mia, and that sent all of them but Collin to the hospital in critical condition. Here is my initial account and photos of the remains of their house.

Tricia is set to have surgery at noon today on her pelvis. Darrell will have surgery Tuesday.

Below, you’ll read my brother Darrell’s account of what happened, as he told it to my cousin Andrew Brown in the hospital. Following that, you can watch a video my cousin Daniel Brown shot, featuring Darrell as he tells his story from the hospital. The video also includes footage from the site of the tornado. Then finally  you’ll also read the account of my brother Scott, who drove into the town when he heard that the school his son Sam had been in was destroyed by the tornado.

Details from Darrell himself, as told to my cousin Andrew, who wrote it down:

“I saw it come over the hill and it looked as if it were going to head north and just miss us. At that moment it turned and headed directly for my house. I ran inside with the family and it was then that the entire house was lifted off of the foundation and thrown up into the air. It threw the house forward and then it turned it on its roof, then came smashing down.

“When I realized what happened I looked around and could not see anyone or tell where I was. I found all three children at various places, face-down, and I woke them. Trish was trapped and I could not move her. I grabbed the three kids and started up to a house but it began to hail baseball-size hail. I picked up what drywall I could to shelter us and then I was hit in the base of the skull, which sent me to my knees. I continued on and got the kids to the neighbors, turned to get Trish, but was grabbed and taken to the hospital.”

Our cousin Andrew added this personal account:

“All day today at the hospital I listend to both Darrell and Trish tell Collin over and over how wonderful God was and how much He loves them all, and how much Collin should thank God for keeping them safe.”

And here is the story from my brother Scott. 

“Emily and I were at my parents’ house in Jeffersonville when the sirens went off. She had come from work; they let her out early. I was in town running errands and met her there. We didn’t know, couldn’t know at that point, that the tornado was headed for Henryville.

(Our 8-year old son) Sam stays at an after-school daycare (in the same complex as Henryville High School). I never know when I’ll be heading home from work and need that freedom to pick him up. We were watching the news from the basement and I went upstairs to try and make phone contact with the daycare. While upstairs I heard a loud painful cry from the basement, followed by repeated cries. Em came running, hysterical, upstairs and simply said “Henryville High School was destroyed!”

I tried to comfort her but all I could say was “I have to go. I have to get there.” My mom said a quick prayer with us and they wanted to stop me but I HAD TO GET THERE. I kissed her goodbye and sped away. Traffic got congested about 5 miles south. I apologize to anyone I cut off. About 2.5-3 miles south I hit the shoulder and drove as fast as I could. I got to about 1.5-2 miles south and got stopped.

I begged the car next to me to let me in front of them. After “My son is in the school!” they let me go. I sped around a few cars and back to the shoulder. Traffic stopped a mile from the exit. I asked the car next to me if it was moving at all. They said it wasn’t. Immediately my car was parked, off, locked and I was running up the shoulder.

That was the hardest mile I’ve ever run. It was cold (earlier it was in the 70s), raining (I’ve never been wetter in my life) and for a good portion it was hailing. I had to walk some, which made me ashamed, but it was faster than the cars. Right before the exit a car’s passengers asked if I was going to the school. When I said yes they said “Get in.”

They got me close to the school but had to check on their own kids and had to let me out. I thanked them, gave a quick but heartfelt “God bless you” and ran the rest of the way. The terrain up to and next to the school was rough. Muddy, rocky, power lines down. The sight of the school was devastating. A cry of “Where are the kids?! There were kids in this room!” was met with “They’re at the church” by a uniform of some sort. Firefighter maybe.

Another Dad was running like I was. We turned on Highway 31 and finished the run with a group of EMTs, in a new shot of hail. I had to cover up from this one. It was like being shot in the face with buckshot. We came to the community center and knew it had to be the “church” we heard about. I ran in, soaked and spent, blinded from equal parts exhaustion and rain-soaked glasses, and yelled Sam’s name.

I somehow caught sight of Pam Horton who works in the school and yelled her name. Immediately she yelled “Sam’s okay!” and turned to find him. He ran to me and we both broke down. It took two hours to get word to Em. Her mom & grandparents found us and took us to their home. Em came up later that night with (our baby) Stella. We’re staying here for the immediate future.

We were spared and blessed beyond measure. I’m eternally grateful to Pam, Katie Walker & “Mr Jeff” (works at the daycare and helped get all the kids to safety), and all the office workers that helped, and emergency personnel that came. So much more to the story, but that’s my viewpoint. Maybe I’ll write Sam’s down soon. Remember the community.


Carmen North March 5, 2012 at 3:21 pm

SO amazed at the miracles God has given us… Praise the Lord is all I can say..

Gerry Eastlund March 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Real riches include the riches possessed inside.
It’s not whatever you pay a male, but what he costs you that counts.

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