DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - One Dougherty County couple is finding the silver lining after January's tornadoes destroyed everything they had six months ago.
That's when those devastating storms ripped through southwest Georgia.
The couple who lived in the home on Newcomb Road said that the tornado's aftermath was like a bad nightmare, one that has quickly turned into a humbling experience.
"It was maybe 45 seconds, but in my mind, the things I remember about it was the sound and then the house shaking," said Debbie Allen as she recalled the afternoon when the EF-3 tornado ripped up her two-story home.
"We really had maybe three minutes," said Allen.
She said she had spoken with her son on the phone who lived across town. He said he was taking cover.
She didn't think the storm was heading her way, until she heard the meteorologists on WALB tell her area to find a safe place. The detrimental winds were headed in her direction.
Debbie, and her husband of five years, went to their safe room with pillows. When her husband crawled out, he told her news she never thought possible.
"He went out and came back in and said I've got to warn you now. We don't have a roof," Allen explained.
The second floor collapsed. The first had crumbled, with only one room still standing.
One picture hung on the wall. it was a cross her grandson had made in school.
"It was the only thing on the wall," Debbie smiled as she pointed to the picture that now hangs in her new home. "And I took that as a sign. You are safe, God protected you."
Allen said the moments after were surreal.
"You're like, 'Is this really happening?' I guess maybe that's why I never screamed, I never cried," said Allen.
Until she looked outside.
"I think that's the first time it hit me. It was reality," said Allen.
Allen's neighbor was one of the five people who were killed during the tornado.
Despite the tragedy, Allen and her husband knew they'd have to move on. So they looked for the silver lining, something Allen admits she once thought was just a cliche.
"We look back and that day was horrible, but after about a week everything has been wonderful," said Allen with a smile.
With prayers and optimism, all of the pieces fell in their place.
"People in Albany have just been so kind, so wonderful," explained Allen.
It all started when people started showing up at her home to help move stuff out and clean up.
Then, one of her students at Deerfield gave her a place to stay.
"He is a precious child," said Allen. "He said we have a house that's fully furnished that you can move into right now."
The boy's grandmother had recently passed away. He offered for Allen and her husband to rent the home until they found a more permanent one.
After living there a few months, she and her husband found a home on the other side of town. Right away, Allen knew it was the place she would find comfort once again.
"We sat in the back yard and said this is it," said Allen.
Allen's home had some 300 trees in the yard. It was one of the things she loved about it. This new home was in a larger neighborhood, with houses closer together. Still, the backyard has enough trees to make her feel comfortable.
The family had a home, but little furniture. Most of the couple's furniture was destroyed, including their dining room table.
One phone call changed that. A woman from Thomasville got in contact with Allen and hand-crafted a table for Allen's family.
Allen said she was shocked when the woman wanted no money for the table. The woman simply called, asked for the kind she wanted and she built it herself.
"When we went to get it from her, she wanted to pray over it," explained Allen as she rubbed her hand along the table's edge." So we feel like the table has been blessed and prayed over and we feel like we can start our gatherings here again."
Allen said the table was a blessing, one of the many she's experienced after the tornadoes.
"We both saw it as an opportunity to move on," said Allen. "Move on with what the plans were for our life because we had to"
Allen said it's difficult to go back to the place where her home was.
The land is now flat, with just one pile of trees. Allen and her husband plan to build pieces with the wood for their new home.
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