Tornado victim receives new home - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Tornado victim receives new home

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July 14, 2007

By: Cade Fowler

Americus -- A Sumter County man who lost his home during the March 1, 2007 tornadoes will soon have a new start.

New Horizons Habitat for Humanity broke ground today at the very site where Gary Merritt lost everything he owned.

Merritt was thrown from his home and buried in debris when a tornado ripped through Americus 4-months ago leaving a pathway of destruction.

Merritt was inured in the storm, his home demolished, but his spirit wasn't broken. With the help of good people and faith, Merritt will soon be the proud owner of a brand new home.

March 1, 2007 is a date that will forever live in the minds of many South Georgians. Especially those that witnessed first hand the impact deadly tornadoes had on local communities.

Gary Merritt recalls that early March afternoon just like it was yesterday. He says, " it was shortly after 9 PM when I heard the sound everyone always talks about. It sounded like a train, rocket, or a jet. I thought, I don't live that close to a train station."

What Merritt heard outside wasn't a train, it was the powerful winds of a tornado, and it was heading directly toward his home.

"My house started coming apart," says Merritt.  He adds, "all that pressure, I saw my floor go forty feet up in the air, and I landed over there in the ditch."

Merritt says, "There's a reason for me to be spared. There was a reason for me to live. I didn't have anything left, but I walked away with my life."

A neighborhood still visibly scarred over one hundred days later - volunteers, friends, and family gather at the very location where nothing shy of a miracle spared the life of Gary Merritt for the groundbreaking of his new home.

 Tom Weiland is with the New Horizon Habitat for Humanity. He says, "the tornado caused a lot of damage, however, there are a lot of good things coming out of this rebuilding. Helping others is one of the best things that resulted from it."

Soon Habitat volunteers, along with the help from other organizations, will begin building a dream where a nightmare took place.

Merritt agrees that faith has played a big roll in getting through this hard time. He says "Faith. That's the key, having faith. Having belief in your faith."

And it will be through faith in others that will provide Merritt with a new place to call home.

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