COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Lauren Neal is overwhelmed with a variety of emotions but it’s words of gratitude that continually utter out of her mouth after her family survived a tornado.
An EF-4 tornado ripped through Cookeville and killed at least 18 people, five of whom are children. Neal, her boyfriend and teenage daughter could’ve been part of the death toll. To everyone’s amazement, her daughter is still alive after she was ripped from her bedroom and landed in their next door neighbor’s pool and covered in debris.
Her daughter only suffered minor injuries.
“She’s alive,” Neal told NewsChannel 5. “My neighbors got her out.”
She remembers getting the warning on her phone, but by the time she got out of bed, Mother Nature unleashed an unforgiving wrath. Neal was on her way to get her teenage daughter when she was slammed by her front door.
“My daughter was in her room and she has hearing problems and wasn’t wearing her hearing aide. I had to yell really loud. She sat up and next thing you know I was looking at her face and the whole front of her house was gone and a door came and hit me and I was holding on the door while getting hit with everything,” she recalled. “I was eating insulation and wood thinking I don’t think I’m going to survive this.”
Neal somehow landed sitting on top of her roof with all the rubble. Her dog was on her lap which later died.
Her home on Charlton Square is one of multiple homes flattened or severely damaged. By the time she returned the next day, not a single beam or wooden frame was standing. Instead, clusters of volunteers, some friends and some strangers, gathered on her property to help find belongings and clear debris.
“The community is amazing because I’ve never had to deal with something like this,” Neal tearfully said. “There’s no words other than ‘thank you’ but that’s not enough.”
Her neighbors across the street also had another story of survival. They are still alive after barricading themselves in the laundry room.