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U.S. Marines drive down a street in Williams, Arizona, May 15, 2021. Marines with 2nd Transportation Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group conducted a convoy across the United States starting in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and arriving at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, in one of the longest convoys in recent Marine Corps history. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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Family pieces together life after tornado destruction

26 Apr 2011 | Cpl. Melissa A. Latty

The April 14-16 tornado outbreak that swept from Oklahoma to North Carolina left many families devastated by the loss of belongings, homes and, for some, loved ones.

Cpl. Brock Wagner, a supply administration specialist with 2nd Supply Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, and his family are lucky to have their lives after losing most of their belongings when their home was destroyed by the vicious storm.

After hearing about the approaching storm, Wagner and his family did not take the warning lightly; they immediately took all necessary precautions to ready themselves for what was coming.

“We put gas in the car, got everything off the porch and stocked the bathroom with bottles, formula, diapers, blankets, pillows and got the baby’s carseat,” explained Wagner, father of a two-year-old daughter and two-month-old son.

Not knowing where the tornado will hit, the family wanted to be ready for anything.

“I had been standing outside the house keeping an eye on the storm when everything went still,” Wagner said.  “I yelled to my family to get in the bathroom.”

After sitting in the bathroom for a short while with no further signs of a tornado, the family began to leave their safe location.

“We walked out of the bathroom and immediately felt the pressure in our ears,” said Wagner’s wife, Amanda.  “We automatically knew we needed to get back in the bathroom.

“I was focused on covering the baby’s head,” she continued. “A friend of ours jumped in the bathtub and covered [our older daughter]. It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to process it.”

Shattering glass, loud rumbles and wind were heard from the family as they sat and hoped for the best.

“Being from Texas you know exactly how to prepare for a tornado,” said Wagner. “But there is nothing that can prepare you for when it actually hits.”

The family stayed in the bathroom until there was silence, signaling that the storm had passed.

Meanwhile, a friend of the family, Seaman Stephen Sennikoff, a hospital Corpsman with Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital, and his wife began driving around to view the damages left behind by the twister.

“I had heard from a friend about a house with the garage door blown in and windows busted out,” said Sennikoff. “When I saw that it was their house I almost lost my mind… I didn’t see them anywhere.”

The family was unharmed, but their home was uninhabitable.

Fiberglass insulation covered the home and clung to toys, clothes, beds and other furniture. Shards of glass were embedded in the walls more than an inch deep.  This family was lucky to have their lives.

“I’m glad we are all okay,” said Amanda. “But it’s so hard to explain to a two year old why she can’t play with any of her toys. When I handed her her purple stuffed animal that made it through the tornado she looked at me like ‘I can really have that one.’ It was the saddest thing ever.”

Following the initial shock and sadness from the situation, the family began to rebuild their lives.

“We have been through the process of realizing what happened and now it’s time to start replacing things,” Amanda said.

The family has taken donations from friends, family, the USO and other organizations and even complete strangers.

“I’m overwhelmed by all of the help we have gotten,” said Wagner.  “The generosity of those helping us has been more overwhelming than the disaster itself.”

The family was given six hours from the base housing office to rummage through their condemned home and gather what little they could salvage from the disaster. Volunteers from various units aboard Camp Lejeune came together to help their fellow Marine and his family.

Toward the end of the day, exhausted, Amanda looked down at her feet, which had taken a beating from the stress put on her and her family.

“I have blisters all on my feet,” Amanda said, not complaining. “A few blisters on my feet are better than what could have happened.”

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