By Sharon Wisch-Ray
If you’ve ever met Laura Seymour, then you know she’s pretty laid-back.
The longtime JCC camp director, and her husband Jeff, are among those affected by the Oct. 20 tornado that ripped through Preston Hollow and decimated many homes near the JCC.
When the storm hit, Laura says she was watching the Cowboy game by herself, because Jeff was out of town. “I was watching the Cowboy game and they were doing so well. I happen to love watching the game. Not everyone thinks I’d enjoy football, but I do. And it was so exciting. But then the power went out and the alarms went off.”
Seymour explained that the sirens are right near the JCC and thus very loud at her home.
She decided to head to the lower bathroom in their split-level home.
“A friend of mine texted me and said, ‘There’s a tornado in your area, where are you,’ and I said, ‘I’m hiding in the bathroom.’ Two minutes later it went over and it was fast.”
Seymour says it was over before she could even think.
“I walked out and looked in the living room and saw the glass had blown out all the windows and Jeff was calling me. I walked upstairs and I said, ‘There’s no roof up there.’”
Seymour says she went outside to check on neighbors and people had begun to mill about. Once she realized that the neighbors were OK, she and a fellow JCC teacher who lived nearby walked over to the JCC to assess the damage. The outside was a mess and the walk over there was treacherous with power lines down and debris.
Although it was clear the JCC had sustained damage on the grounds, Seymour described what she found when they went inside.
“We walked into the J and it was fine. It didn’t sustain the kind of damage you would expect. The preschool looked great.”
With no roof on her house, Seymour had to decide her next steps.
“I walked home and charged my phone in my car and I came back up and slept at the J.”
Seymour said that their insurance company has been stellar. By Monday, they were in a hotel, and by Thursday, the company had moved them into a nearby townhome.
“We’ve been totally taken care of,” she says, grateful that there were no serious injuries and that everyone survived. “It’s only stuff.”
When Cristie and Rodney Schlosser built their home, they incorporated a basement into the plans. That basement provided the necessary shelter when their home was pummeled by the violent tornado that ripped through St. Marks and then on to Tulip Lane. Rodney Schlosser said that his high school senior son, Lee, alerted him and Cristie to the approaching storm and “dragged us to the basement.” They just had moments to spare.
“We heard like a wet sheet baying and heard all this glass. That was stuff being thrown around once the windows broke.”
When they surfaced and surveyed the damage, they saw tiny glass shards everywhere.
“Glass, when it flies, it’s like shrapnel,” Rodney Schlosser said. “It’s embedded in upholstery, walls, floors, everywhere.”
Thankfully the Schlossers’ structure is fine, but most importantly they are grateful that no one was hurt.
“We feel very fortunate, there’s no loss of life or injuries,” he said. “We are very sad. We have shed some tears. There are things that are lost that you can’t find.”
Rodney Schlosser said he was particularly struck by the mobilization of the first responders. Not just police and firefighters, but workers from Oncor and Atmos as well, who worked around the clock to keep the neighborhood safe, restore power and repair leaks. Central Market, whose store at Preston Royal was devastated, moved their portable kitchen to the parking lot and fed first responders and affected residents three meals a day through Sunday.
The outpouring of support has been overwhelming for the Schlosser Family.
“There were three folks who showed up at our doorstep who walked blocks to get here because the whole area was cordoned off.” Those were Temple Shalom (where Rodney is the board president) members and Rabbi Andrew and Debbie Paley. They all pitched in to help the Schlossers begin the recovery process.
“It was touching,” he said.
The Israel Family
Nancy, Solomon and Serena Israel had just come home from having dinner at some friends’ sukkah. They were in a rush to get home and walk the dog before it started to rain. It was drizzling.
“We heard the sirens and we halfheartedly went to the guest bathroom with the cats and the dog. The power flickered and then it went out. And then we heard this crash. We felt the house shake. The pressure in our ears changed and then we sat in the dark waiting, literally holding our breath waiting to see if we were going to get ripped up by the tornado or if the house was going to come crashing in. What struck me most was the silence.”
As soon as the storm was over, Solomon Israel went out and said, “You have a tree coming through your kitchen.” The Israels’ beloved oak tree, which has been estimated to be between 120 and 150 years old, had crashed through their home.
“It’s like a death in the family. I know people have suffered so much worse, but I think everyone’s suffering is unique. I’m grateful that we still have a roof over our heads, but it just broke our hearts.” Nancy Israel explained that they bought their house because of that tree and when they renovated it, they went to great lengths to make sure that the tree would flourish.
She says that they will probably have to be out of their house for three to six months.
“You have to be grateful for what you have. We have our lives, we are safe, we are free. We are grateful for the outpouring of love from our friends.”
Nancy Israel says her neighbors immediately checked on them and have brought food by the house. They’ve gotten to know each other better.
“We hurt together, we will heal together,” she said. “It also made me realize that with all the tribalism that is going on in the news right now — in a disaster, nobody cares who you vote for. They just care about each other. I think that’s an important message.”
By Sharon Wisch-Ray