Tornado in the Mobile Home Park!
I was part of the Marine Corps Riot Squad and would not have normally been involved in this type of emergency, but it was very close to our Base. They needed everyone possible to search for this child and time was of the essence. Are normal mission was to be of assistance to the Police if a riot had ever broken out.
All the homes were fine except one!
I had no idea of what to expect but knew that it must have been very serious for them to get us involved. We all got dressed very quickly and immediately responded to the scene.
The sun was just beginning to come up and what we saw was just crazy.
It was a mobile home park and for the most part all the homes there were just fine, except for the end home. The park was nestled in a heavily wooded area with a stream right along side of it.
The home that was completely destroyed had been sitting right beside the small stream. The debris from the home had blocked the stream and it had now been collecting water so that a small pond was starting to form.
Police and Fireman were everywhere along with the local news media. When we got out and formed up to receive our assignments some attention from the media was placed on us. We immediately shifted the attention back to it's proper place and that was on the missing child.
We formed up in pairs and each pair was to cover a specific grid of the area. We were to turn over and look underneath everything and anything that would not have normally been there prior to the tornado. We were also to call out his name Tommy, just in case he may respond. When we heard the name Tommy used it immediately made it real to me.
I happened to ask why just the child and not the parents. They told me that the parents miraculously had survived the storm and were in fair condition, but were going crazy looking for their young son.
The hope of course was that we would find him alive and this would be a very happy ending. That was hard to imagine as you looked at the debris field.
My fellow Marine and I began our search as we had been instructed. We started up a small incline and turned over every thing we saw. We even turned over logs and rustled through piles of leaves that may have been there for a long time. We didn't want to take any chances at all.
We kept calling out his name as we went along. After calling it we would try and be as quiet as possible in the hopes that we would hear him.
As we would go along and tum things over there were certain times you knew that if you saw him under it the outcome would be grim. Some of the items were very heavy with several jagged edges.
All around there were not only other Marines searching but all kinds of volunteers.
It is amazing how the human spirit works. There are so many good people around us and we tend to forget that.
For the most part the people searching had no idea who this family was or anything about this child. They only knew that a small child named Tommy was missing and needed to be found immediately.
Even as a Marine it gave me goose bumps to think that people really do care if given a chance. It is too bad that often times it is only discovered in times of an emergency.
I think often times people want to help a lot more than they do but are never cast into a position where they can.
I know as a Marine I rarely ever thought of the risks that I would face. I really never considered the idea of dying. On the other hand I also knew that I was willing to place myself in harms way to fight at any time if our country asked me to. That is the price of Freedom!
Well this day there were a lot of volunteers looking for a child named Tommy that needed to be found right now!
We continued to turn over everything and look. We didn't let anything go by without looking. Huge pieces of the mobile home still lying in our way! With each piece of the home we encountered we searched it thoroughly.
At the time I was a part of this I was not married, nor did I have any children. Now that I look back at this with four children and a wife, I understand how important it was to find that boy alive.
With each step we became more determined. We were becoming more invested in this young boy's life. With each tick of the second hand we knew that it was less likely we would find Tommy alive.
We had been looking for about two and half hours when someone said that they had found Tommy close to the original location of the home.
His lifeless body was lying there on a backboard as the fireman was trying to breath life back into his little body. He was still in his pajamas soaking wet with some mud stains on them. He must have been around three or four.
His parents were sobbing close by begging the fireman to save him. Everyone there was just starring at what was taking place in front of them.
They had found the boy at the bottom of the newly formed pond that had been created by the debris from the destroyed mobile home.
Although I had never met Tommy I was heart broken. I felt the pain of the parents as each moment went by and Tommy did not respond to the actions of the fireman. You could tell the fireman was determined to save this little boys life.
On the other hand how was that possible since he must have been under water for more than two hours!
That didn't change the determination of the fireman. The people like myself watching didn't want him to stop either. We knew if he stopped then the outcome was decided. For about fifteen minutes the fireman continued to try. At that point another fireman stepped in and took over. Finally the Fire Chief loaded them into the back of the Ambulance as they continued to try and breath life back into Tommy.
His parents were placed into the back of the Police car to follow the ambulance to the hospital. You could see the anguish on their faces as both were clinging to each other and crying uncontrollably!
The impression it left in my mind as the Police car drove off will never leave me.
Tomorrow is never promised even by God!
I had to wonder if they had hugged Tommy when the put him to bed the night before? Had they read him a story or said prayers with him? Did he go to bed crying over some stupid little thing? Had they whispered that they loved him as he drifted off to sleep?
I sometimes still think about that with my own kids today. Do I tell them I love them enough? Do I show them that I love them no matter what? Do I get in too much of a hurry in my life to slow down and appreciate the little things?
I remember back on that day that tomorrow is never promised!
We found out later that Tommy had passed that day! I never met Tommy but he taught me a lot!