Worth Co. man rebuilds his life and home following tornado

Worth Co. man rebuilds his life and home following tornado
Published: Jan. 17, 2018 at 9:28 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2018 at 7:28 AM EST
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Richard Kirkland (Source: WALB)
Richard Kirkland (Source: WALB)
This is where Kirkland's home used to stand (Source: WALB)
This is where Kirkland's home used to stand (Source: WALB)

WORTH CO., GA (WALB) - A Worth County man is helping South Georgians rebuild their lives, after the tornadoes on January 22 left trees on homes, windows shattered, and roofs ripped off.

But while he travels around the region repairing the homes of storm victims, he's also working on rebuilding his life.

Richard Kirkland built his home with his own hands.

But last year's tornado picked that home off of its foundation on Camp Osborn Road, moving it across his property.

"You can't see what's coming. You don't know what's happening," Kirkland recalled. "I heard the freight train noise. A very distinct sound."

It was a sound Kirkland knew was an approaching tornado.

But it's strength was nothing he could have ever imagined.

"(We) huddled up with the two dogs, cat, and my fiance. Thinking, 'When is it going to end? What's it going to be like when it's done? Are we going to be alive when it's over?'" he remembered.  "It happened so fast, it's hard for your mind to grasp just how fast it did happen."

In seconds, his home was picked up by EF-3 force winds.

"This was actually the back of the house right here," he said. "When it all happened, it picked the house up, moved it about 35 feet this way and south."

But he, his fiance, his cat, and his two dogs survived, without a scratch.

"The good Lord had his hands on us," said Kirkland.

But his house and his trees weren't so fortunate.

"I won't live long enough to see what we had before," he said. "With the 70 and 80-year-old pines and oaks that we had. It's crazy."

His house wasn't just a house.

Kirkland owns a construction company.

He and his son built this house in just five months.

"While he was here during part of the demo, and we actually found stuff in the house where I wrote him notes on the walls. Every time we'd get to a section of that, something he and I both had our hands on, we would break down. It was heart-wrenching," he said. "And to see it all hauled away in a truck, I'm thinking, 'Will I ever be able to rebuild?' It's nothing but lumber and nails, but you spent a lot of time, and heart, and blood, sweat and tears in it."

For Kirkland's other clients whose homes were damaged in the January 22 tornadoes, Kirkland replaces more than just lumber and nails.

He helps families rebuild their lives.

"They see me working, people stop, want a card, 'Hey can you give me a price on this and this?' It's non stop," said Kirkland.

And while he stays busy remodeling other homes, he's rebuilding his own new home.

"You don't know this side of it until you live through it," he said.  "I've done this job for ten years, and never thought I'd be on the receiving side of it either."

As he builds his new home, memories of January 22 play a large part in his new additions.

Like his storm shelter, where Kirkland, his fiance, his neighbors, and of course his dogs go during severe weather now.

"Everything you work and pay for can be gone in an instant," he said. "You really can't nail everything down and safeguard everything. You just have to look after your life and that's one choice I made. If that will help save our lives in another storm, the money is well worth it."

He said you can't put a dollar amount on peace of mind, knowing his family and dogs will be prepared if and when the next severe weather strikes.

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