Vilonia, Ark. community rallies together after deadly tornadoes



Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaasebastian


Posted on May 1, 2014 at 5:30 PM

VILONIA, Ark. -- Two days after the Lentz family's Vilonia home was destroyed by a tornado, it goes up in flames.

"It is hard to look at, because we built that and we worked hard to build it, and to see it go up in literal smoke is difficult," Wade Lentz said.

Wade Lentz and an army of friends and family are trying to pick through what's left. What they can't salvage, they burn.

Sunday evening, an EF-4 tornado rolled through three small towns in Arkansas: Vilonia, Mayflower, and El Paso. They are about 50 miles north of Little Rock. By the time it was over, it would leave behind 30 miles of damage and take 15 lives with it.

Across town, the Gordon family didn’t see it, but they heard it pass over their family business.

"It was just a tremendous racket, it sounded like three or four freight trains had a wreck just on top of us," said long-time Vilonia resident Stanley Gordon.

"A lot of things race through your mind when you think you are going to die," added his 16-year-old grandson, Noah Myers.

They survived by hiding in this basement. The building isn't standing, but it was still bleeding, as broken water pipes sprayed water over the debris Monday morning.

That same morning, hundreds of volunteers filled the area as soon as the overnight curfew was lifted.

"I think that shows that the people are here to help each other. That's the American way, to help each other," said Redgie Jetton of Paragould, Ark.

He drove about two hours from his home town to help feed volunteers.

It's a community heartbroken for those they lost, but thankful for one story after another of survival.

For the Lentz family, that means seeing their family dog, Oreo, after leaving him behind.

"That night, we looked all day yesterday under all the rubble, could not find him," Lentz said. "But this morning, when we pulled up to the house, he was there to greet us."

"It was a miracle -- we shut the door and he hid under our bed, and we thought that was the last time seeing Oreo," said sixth grader Matthew Lentz.

In the town of Vilonia, there are miracles everywhere you look less than a week after the storm devastated the community. The rebuilding is well under way.