This is the dramatic account of an Army Veteran who lost his home in a Mississippi tornado.
Army Veteran Jimmy Lee Barfield was watching the television with his wife. The weatherman was on the screen talking about storms passing through Louisiana and Arkansas. And that’s when things began to change, rapidly.
“The weatherman was getting very excited. The storm was coming across the river with a vengeance,” said Barfield, a resident of Rolling Fork, which is a dozen miles from the banks of the Mississippi River and site of where meteorologists estimated the storm was traveling to at 60-70 mph.
“I went to the front door and I couldn’t see anything to the west. It was just black,” he said.
“Go to the bathroom,” he told his wife. Joining her in the bathroom, he said, “Get in the tub and put your head down. Don’t look up.”
Barfield, confined to a wheelchair, threw a leg over his wife to help protect her. Then he said a prayer for his family’s safety.
“Then everything got quiet. The roar kept getting louder and louder like a big jet engine. Our ears popped. I saw the roof over our bathroom take off. I raised up my head and looked into the eyes of a monster.”
“The house is gone.”
Barfield put his head back down and, within the next few seconds, it was over. His wife poked her head out of the tub, took in the scene, and began crying. “The house is gone,” she cried.
“No babe,” Barfield recalled saying. “It’s just part of the roof that flew away.”
“No. The house is gone,” his wife told him.
“She was right,” Barfield admits now. “But I could only see a little bit. My wheelchair was destroyed. I looked around and couldn’t get over how fast it happened. And that’s where we were when we were rescued in our bathroom. You looked back at the bathroom and you could see the 2x4s that laid around us. It created a shield over us.”
Barfield believes it was the hand of God protecting them, as they were soon evacuated to the Rolling Fork National Guard Armory. First responders brought in residents amidst the downed power lines and a massive debris field that used to be the homes of 2,000 Rolling Fork residents. Red Cross, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and local ambulance crews triaged residents and helped wherever they could.
“When I saw VA arrive, I told my wife we were going to be OK.”
Just hours later, the Mobile Medical Unit from the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA in Jackson, Mississippi, arrived on site with social workers and emergency management personnel.
“When I saw VA arrive, I told my wife we were going to be OK,” Barfield said.
VA social workers helped him and his wife, providing immediate needs of clothing, food and shelter. They sent word back to the medical center for his medications before they were further evacuated to Jackson, Mississippi. But, before departing Rolling Fork, Barfield took a video call from VA Secretary Denis McDonough.
“Look at that,” Barfield told his wife. “Here’s the secretary of VA and he’s asking about us. He talks to the president, but he’s concerned about us.”Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in