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Cleburne Tornado Survivors Remember Those Lost May 15th

Jeff Ray, CBS11 - Cleburne

Jeff Ray, CBS11 – Cleburne

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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GRANBURY (CBS 11 NEWS) – Damage from a deadly 2013 tornado stretches from Granbury to Cleburne. While residents there have made a concerted effort to rebuild, those who survived the storm will never forget those who didn’t.

“They were right in those trees,” Howard Smith said, as he pointed out a tree line more than 100 yards across a pasture from his home.

Howard and his wife Irene Smith were looking toward where a married couple and their mother were eating dinner in their trailer when the Granbury tornado hit a year ago.

The winds launched the triple-wide trailer more than 100 yards through the air.

“It went over these trees and it landed right there,” Smith said nodding toward his back yard. “And it just broke in a million pieces and scattered across our yard, with three people in it.”

Howard found Tommy Martin and his wife lying injured in the debris. Then he found their mother.

“There was a big piece of metal that they put on the outside of trailer houses and I saw a hand out from under it,” Howard remembered. “I threw that away and I saw that it was the mother — she was about 80 years old. She was dead when I found her.”

Martin insisted neighbors take his wife to the hospital first.

“Finally the ambulances came after we got her off and took him,” Howard said. “But he died on the way to the hospital. He sort of gave his life for his wife really, because if they got him to the hospital quicker he might have lived.”

Today, a fiberglass Madonna overlooks the Smith’s yard where they still find bits of debris in the dirt. There is a small brick wall behind the figurine and a concrete bench on either side of her.

“She survived the tornado, so I put her up here where she’s kind of watching over the area [where] the people landed,” Irene said.

Sitting by the makeshift memorial a year later it’s still hard for the Smiths to describe the emotions of that tragic day.

Sighing heavily Irene said, “Just, emotional.”

(©2014 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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