Andersonville families try to heal, rebuild

March 8, 2007

Macon  --  Tony Kirby is hospitalized with two broken legs, after his home was lifted in the air by last week's deadly tornado, and exploded.

Tony and Brenda Kirby's home was on Watermelon Road in northern Sumter County, just south of Andersonville.  "You heard a big boom. It must have been like dynamite. It went everywhere," Tony said.

Both Kirby's legs were fractured, and steel rods had to be inserted to put them back together. He is a patient at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon. "When it flipped the first time my back went through the wall. Brenda, I was holding her, she was on top of me. So that might have been a good thing we did bust a wall, I don't know."

Their home was reduced to splinters, and their belongings scattered. Tony's father in law Durwood Spillers said "The house was sitting here. The tornado picked it up. And it hit down right here. You see the tracks where it hit the ground. It bounced back up, picked it right back up, and it moves it over, and you see where it set down again, right here. Then it picked it up again, and it set down. You can see the tracks where it hit the ground again. When it hit here, that's when it exploded."

Brenda Kirby is bruised and scratched, but did not suffer any serious injuries when their home exploded around them. "I remember it picking us up. That's all I remember until I heard Tony screaming was the next thing I remember."

Doctors have told Tony Kirby he probably will not be able to put weight on his legs for two months, but he says his neighbors, co-workers and friends have been there for him. " I'd just like to tell everybody I appreciate what they did," he said tearfully, "Because a lot of people helped me. "

They will rebuild in the same spot, but Tony says this time there will be one addition. "We're gonna build a storm shelter, if I have to dig it myself. If it goes to sprinkling, I'm going to stay in it. "

A tornado survivor who says he will be ready if the storms return his way.

The Kirbys do not have insurance. His family is working with FEMA, trying to arrange for a temporary home to be provided during his recovery.

The homes of Brenda Kirby's father and sister, also on Watermelon Road, were seriously damaged by the tornado. Next door, Sherrie Anne Griffith, her husband and two children all huddled inside their mobile home as the tornado tore the roof off.

The next home over, Durwood Spillers and his wife hid in their bedroom under a mattress. "It sounded like a couple of sticks of dynamite went off on top of the trailer. Me and my wife got down on the floor," Spillers said.

In all ten homes were damaged on Watermelon Road. Griffith's six-year-old son is scared to return home. They are living with neighbors while they try to find new homes for their three families.