As a deadly tornado tore through parts of Alabama last Thursday, demolishing property and taking lives, a devout Catholic woman who sought refuge in a basement closet inside her now destroyed home said she asked God to stop the tornado and it did.
“I was praying to God,” Mary Rose DeArman told AL.com as Gov. Kay Ivey surveyed the damage from the tornado in her state Monday. “When we got in that closet, I prayed to God, ‘Let it stop,’ and it stopped.”
Mary Rose, 69, and her husband Larry, 74, had to climb up two ladders to get out of the rubble of their home in the Eagle Point subdivision of Shelby County. The only thing that was left standing was an armless angel statue.
“Never in my life did I think I would be climbing a ladder,” she told the publication. “I climbed that ladder like a monkey up a flagpole.”
She further told Ivey in an interview that it was “by the grace of God” and good neighbors that she and her husband survived after their home was leveled.
“The neighbors dug me out and I had to climb up two sets of ladders to get out and then they had to dig him out,” she said of her husband. “But we only got a few scratches.”
The couple attends weekly mass at Our Lady of the Valley Church, and Mary Rose, who prays the rosary every morning, believes their lives were spared for a purpose.
“It had to be from God,” she told AL.com. “God’s got a purpose. We don’t know what that purpose is. We’ll have to wait and see.”
If she had to take a guess as to what that purpose is, she said, it would be “to get the message out that God is in control of everything.”
“I don’t know why we got spared,” she said. “Most people look at that and say no way anybody could have survived.”
State Rep. Arnold Mooney told the publication that volunteer crews from the Church of the Highlands and Meadowbrook Baptist Church helped clear debris from the road so emergency vehicles could enter the neighborhood to provide assistance.
While the DeArmans were celebrating surviving the tornado, however, Kalvin Bowers of Ohatchee told Ivey how he lost three family members and almost everything in Thursday’s tornado.
“We really don’t have nowhere to stay,” Bowers told Ivey, speaking of his 10 surviving family members who lived among five destroyed mobile homes on his property, according to the Alabama Political Reporter.
Bowers sister, Barbara Harris, 69; her husband, Joe Wayne Harris, 74; and their 38-year-old daughter, Ebonique Harris, died in the tornado. Two other residents of Calhoun County also died on Thursday. James William Geno, 71, died at his mobile home in Ohatchee, while Emily Myra Wilborn, 71, died at her Wellington home.
Bowers said his family has been gathering whatever personal items they can find from the rubble on their property “until we can get past the funerals” and begin to rebuild.
“It’s kind of a bad situation,” he told Ivey. “It looks like nobody ever lived here.”
At a press conference at a volunteer station set up at Oak Bowery Missionary Baptist Church at the start of her tour, Ivey promised that she would do “everything in our power to help those impacted come back, and come back stronger.”