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Lancaster Still Rebuilding After Tornado Last Year

Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM
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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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Tornado damage in Northwest Lancaster near Wintergreen Rd. on April 3, 2012. (Credit: Jay Gormley/KTVT)

Tornado damage in Northwest Lancaster near Wintergreen Rd. on April 3, 2012. (Credit: Jay Gormley/KTVT)

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) –  A grim anniversary is looming; next week will be the one year since a tornado ripped through North Texas and hit Lancaster especially hard.

But on Saturday one Lancaster homeowner was celebrating a comeback from disaster.

“It gets emotional sometimes, being back home,” Vanessa Wyatt tells us.  It’s not obvious, looking at her fashionable home, that a year ago it was reduced to rubble.   But the tornado twisted and churned through Lancaster, grinding up whole neighborhoods, including Vanessa Wyatt’s.

At the time she’d left her home daycare business -and three children- in the hands of fiance’ Edward Vonder. She called home just in time to warn him.

“I saw the tornado coming towards me,” Vonder recalled Saturday, “ I grabbed the three children, I placed them in the bathtub, I then placed a blanket on top of them, then I laid my body on top of them. “

“The phones went dead,” added Wyatt.  “I was hysterical because I didn’t know what happened.  I could hear the glass breaking.”  But Vonder and the children survived.

He poked his head out to survey the damage.

“The whole house was demolished; I went outside, I looked outside….the whole neighborhood was just like Beirut.”   And when Wyatt got home she found everyone was physically okay.   “I screamed out to Edward, and he hugged me and said it’s okay, the babies are okay.  The most joyful moments when I finally got to the babies, the was, like, where you been?”

On Saturday, friends and relatives returned to the newly-rebuilt home, celebrating its renewal.

Even the children who survived in the tub, including Jamal Thompson, who was only four at the time.  He remembered not being scared, but when asked if it was noisy, he answered, “Loud.”

It’s been a year of ups and downs; months of living in a hotel, later an apartment; anxiety about contractors and deadlines.  But now they say, it really feels like home.

“But to be back home?” Vonder asks rhetorically.  “It feels like a big relief for us.”

“I’m blessed.  I can truly thank God,” says Wyatt, “I’m just blessed to be here, thankful.”

Vanessa Wyatt doesn’t run her daycare anymore, but says she may return to the business one day.   While her home was insured, sadly some in her neighborhood apparently were not.

Empty shells of homes there show there is much rebuilding yet to be done in Lancaster.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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