By Jack Fink
cornym and cluck Sen. Cornyn Pledges Federal Disaster Money For Tornado Victims

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck survey tornado damage on April 6, 2012. (credit: Chuck Schechner/KRLD NewsRadio 1080)

ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Jim and Twila Meyer of Arlington showed Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn Mayor Robert Cluck and Tarrant County Commissioners Court Judge Glen Whitley what’s left of their yard and home after a tornado destroyed parts of their neighborhood on Friday.

Twila Meyer told them, “All of the insulation in our attic is gone.  Here’s our backyard.”

Her husband said, “You can see what’s left of some of the trees.”

Mayor Cluck told the couple, “Sorry about your home, but glad you weren’t hurt.”

Now, a small army of volunteers, is helping the cleanup process in this neighborhood near Green Oaks and I-20.

Cornyn was impressed.  “It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” he said.

The Senator then put on gloves and joined the effort to send a message.

“That their leaders at the local, federal, and state leaders are trying to find out what we can do to help make their lives a little easier,” he said.

The Senator also promised that federal disaster money will arrive in North Texas as soon as damage assessments are completed.

“We’re here to make sure this is a seamless process,” he said.

Before the storms, the Meyers had 18 huge trees in their backyard. They credit one of those with possibly saving their house.

It fell away from the residence, and their house is largely untouched. Want to see what’s left of their 18 trees? Well, they’re in the front yard.

“The two homes behind us are destroyed and the house across the street is destroyed,” Jim Meyer said.

Inside, the twister blew out the windows, but left family heirlooms, some more than 100 years old, unscathed.

“Glad I wasn’t here,” he said. “This stuff can be cleaned up.”

Despite all of the damage to their house, the couple wore their Texas Rangers shirts.

They went to Friday’s home-opener because they say they never miss it, and didn’t want to start now.

While their home was mostly spared, the twister destroyed one of their neighbors’ houses. Walking into what’s left of her house of 25 years, Nancy McNiel summed up all the damage with one word: “Catastrophe.”

She still can’t believe Tuesday’s tornado leveled her house while her adult son and daughter, and 3-month-old granddaughter were huddled inside.

Thankfully, they weren’t hurt. But the house is a different story.

“When you go up the stairs, you don’t expect to see sunlight,” she said.

The tornado shot a two by four through the wall of her grandson’s room. And it tore off the walls in her and her husband’s bedroom.

“The tornado sucked the sheets right off our mattress, fitted sheets off the mattress.  I’m still floored every time I see that,” McNiel said.

Looking at McNiel’s second floor, it’s a wonder everyone survived.

After all, the tornado blew off their entire roof. Fortunately, unlike most Texans, they have a basement.

McNiel says when the sirens went off, her children and granddaughter quickly ran for the basement.

Just as they went downstairs, the twister struck. Their insurance company has cut them two checks already, and they plan to re-build here –– and, yes, they want a basement.

McNiel says, “We never thought it’d be the difference between life and death for our kids.”

The city says 523 buildings suffered damage. Among them is the St. Barnabas United Methodist Church.

Crews have spent the past few days cleaning up here. The tornado tore off part of the roof and shattered some of the windows.

They’re ripping out the carpet and airing out the building. Because of all the damage, the church will hold Easter sunrise services on its front lawn at 7 o’clock Sunday.

The main service will be held at 10 a.m. at Martin High School.