Saturday, August 23 will be ten years since a tornado came ashore in Egg Harbor and did some major damage. Mark and I were at the beach with our four kids who at the time ranged in age from 7 to 16. With ominous clouds looming, we decided to take the kids home and head up to Egg Harbor Lodge. As soon as we got in the office, a relative from Appleton called and said the news was reporting a tornado over the bay in Egg Harbor. I looked out and could see the water spout over the bay. I called the kids at home and told them to get in the basement and stay there until further notice.
Tornadoes are pretty rare in the county so it didn’t occur to me to head home… I figured the people on the shore would have some tree damage. We herded the guests into the whirlpool room and hunkered down. It got calm then windy, it hailed, rained hard and then the lights went out. After it calmed down I went next door to check on my parents and call the kids. While I was over at my parent’s, Mark’s sister called and said the tornado touched down… possibly near our home. I couldn’t get in touch with the kids by phone… I jumped in the car and headed home. The road was blocked and by the time I got close enough (by foot) to see the house I could see the devastation. Half of our house was completely gone and the other half was twisted on the foundation with every single window blown out. I didn’t know where the kids were and complete panic set it. At one point some kids that had been staying across the street at what used to be Herb’s Horses told me the sheriff’s department had all the kids and they appeared to be uninjured. It felt like a miracle. The first responders were already there taking charge. There were what seemed to be live wires everywhere and I wasn’t allowed down to the house. Once it was determined the wires were not live and the gas had been turned off I was able to get to the house. Mark in the meantime beat me there by plowing through our cherry orchard with my parent’s cadillac. Oh what a happy reunion that was! Like all parents, our only thoughts were about the kids and their safety. They stayed in the basement but the house lifted a bit and the weight bearing posts in the basement fell and house actually fell on top of them. Josh was in one corner of the basement and Nellie, Emilie and Joe in another. Nellie laid on top of 7 yr. old Joe and Emilie had our dog Sandie. The house and barn were a total loss and we lost all of the trees. But to this day, we never cried or were sad about the house itself… just thankful for the kids. I am not saying it wasn’t a pain in the neck… it was much more than that. The Red Cross was there the next day giving us vouchers for Wal-Mart and Pick-N-Save. Since we didn’t have a toothbrush or underwear… we were pretty thankful! Over the next few days something really amazing happened. Our small community came together for us and the others families whose homes were damaged or destroyed. For us, the entire place was completely cleaned up within a week. If you would have seen all the damage it would seem like an impossible feat. We stayed with my parents for a few days and it just so happened a house our neighbor owns was empty and we were able to rent it. Friends and family got EVERYTHING together for the house. Furniture, beds, bedding, towels, TV even DirecTV. The frig was filled with food. It was truly amazing. Mark and I were still trying to run the lodge so the help couldn’t have been more needed. The outpouring of friendship and love was truly overwhelming. Friends even pitched in to feed the people that helped at the house every day. And with true Sawyer style, there was usually a bit of fun at the end of every tiring day. When we rebuilt the house, friends, neighbors and community members helped every step of the way. I remember even some guys from the Island came to help shingle. We got discounts from painting to plastering and furniture. To this day, we could not be thankful enough. Even the Bishop came and blessed us and our house. There was even a benefit for the “tornado vicitims” organized by the county. We are truly lucky to live on such a grand peninsula.
So, with all that said we are having a big party at our house to celebrate the ten year anniversary. We will roast pigs, corn, potatoes…. we will have tons of food and drink. It is hard remembering everyone that helped, but we will do our best to get the word out. It will be a day to celebrate family, friends, community and life… things certainly worth celebrating.