Three-year old Kellan Brown heard a storm early Tuesday morning and ran to wake his mom, Tech student, Emily Hendrixson. The heavy rainstorm masked the sound of a tornado.
“We were asleep. Kellan woke us up. It just sounded like heavy rain,” Bryce Watts, said. “We heard no sirens, we had no alerts.”
Seconds later most of the roof on their West Broad Street house flew off except the part covering a bedroom where Kellan huddled with his mom and Watts, her boyfriend.
“It all happened so fast,” Watts said. “There was no time to think, we just reacted.”
An early morning tornado traveled across middle Tennessee on Tuesday destroying property and at last count, killing 22 people. Watts, Hendrixson and her son had all survived with only minor cuts and abrasions from the flying broken glass.
The windows and doors blew in when the roof flew off. Rain, wind and bits of soggy insulation pelted the three as they ran to escape the nightmare their home had become.
Neighbors from across the street came running to help. The rest of the night the three and other displaced neighbors huddled together in an undamaged home, he said.
Hendrixson and Kellan moved in a month ago and furnished the two-bedroom home with new furniture. Their first real look at the devastation came at dawn, as they began trying to sort through what could be salvaged.
Even then it was still dangerous. The remaining roof collapsed as they hurriedly removed the few items worth saving like the washer, dryer and television. The couch may be a total loss.
Wet insulation squished beneath their feet as they went room to room. Insulation, pieces of drywall, broken glass, twisted metal and shards of wood covered everything.
Every room in the home was touched. Couches and chairs weighted down underneath the wet soggy mess. Clothes hung abandoned in closets without doors, dripping water onto the already saturated carpet.
The bathroom where Hendrixson bathed her son was almost unrecognizable. His bathtub toys miraculously still clung to the side of the bathtub surrounded by fallen drywall and debris.
Kellan’s room, bed, his toys, his books and his stuffed animals remained covered by a layer of insulation. A favorite stuffed animal, a puppy, lay forlorn on his bed, surrounded by debris.
Kitchen cabinets stood open, their contents spilled out onto the floor and counters.
Yellow buttercups sat on the counter untouched next to a picture in a frame surrounded by debris. Kellan and Watts picked the flowers for Hendrixson because they are her favorite flower. It all looked like a warzone.
“I feel so helpless,” Watts said, as he stood outside surveying the damage.
But he said had a plan: to get his girlfriend and her son someplace safe and warm.
Family and friends came to help Hendrixson, a junior early childhood practitioner major and Watts, a sophomore communication major.
Watts’ sister, Madeline Watts, a senior art major and others volunteered to help.
They said they plan to stay with Bryce Watts until they are able to move into another house provided by their rental manager, Soard Properties.