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Arkansas tornado brings devastation and heartbreak to many

by BRIANNA SICILIANO Photo/Video Editor

A tornado swept through central Arkansas on Sunday, April 27, leaving behind massive devastation, along with multiple deaths.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) claims to have responded to multiple fatality reports in Vilonia, White County, and Faulkner County. The twister ripped through these areas around 7 p.m. and created total destruction for over an hour.

The tornado was first spotted in the Pinnacle Mountain/ Maumelle area. The storm then moved up to Mayflower, then Vilonia, and finally to Searcy.

The death toll of the tornado is now at 16. ADEM requested the help of the Arkansas National Guard, who sent 46 members to deploy to Mayflower and Vilonia for help.

According to Sheriff Andy Shock, who is with the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office, many homes in Mayflower and Vilonia have been completely flattened. At least 11 fatalities have been reported in Faulkner county alone. On Monday morning, the Sheriff’s Office confirmed that two of the fatalities were children.

“What is there to say in response to this devastation? Innocent people died because of this twister. My condolences to the grieving families who have lost their loved ones,” said junior Alannah Nasser.

David Powell, a White County Coroner, said that a deceased person was found at “a distance” from his home. It has been reported that three people, who are confirmed to be a dad and two teenage daughters, were found dead along the 4000 block of Deer Drive in Pulaski County.

Jeffrey Hunter, a 22-year-old who lived in Vilonia, Arkansas, sent many text messages to his mother, Regina Wood, who was 20 miles away before the massive EF-4 twister hit.

Despite the impending disaster about to hit Hunter, Wood tried to calm down her son, who was holed up in the bathroom. Wood told Hunter that he would be okay.

“He knew how bad it was, they say it’s going to be a direct hit….I have a text on my phone as the tornado was hitting [that reads] ‘Goodbye mama,'” said Wood.

Now those messages are being cherished by Wood, who said she will hold onto them forever. Hunter was with his father and stepmother while the tornado hit, but his parents escaped death with serious injuries.

The twister also took the lives of Cameron and Tyler Smith, whose family has touched the hearts of millions of people worldwide.

April Smith, her husband Daniel, and her sons Cameron and Tyler hid under a mattress in a bathtub in their Vilonia home when the twister barreled through Arkansas. The storm completely destroyed their home and took the lives of both boys. Smith is in the hospital with two broken legs and a fractured pelvis, while her husband is recovering from head trauma.

“I cannot even imagine how challenging this time is for the entire state of Arkansas, especially those who have lost their loved ones. My heart goes out to everyone who knew the innocent victims of this terrible storm,” said junior Giulietta Flaherty.

Jessica Soward, a family friend of Smith’s, went to see April in the hospital. Soward shared the Smith’s heartbreaking story on her blog, telling her readers about how Smith’s outlook on the situation changed her own.

“[Tyler Smith]  looked at [his mother April] Sunday afternoon, before the storm, and told her he was ready to go to heaven,” Soward wrote in her blog. “‘Will you miss me?’ he asked her. ‘Well yes,’ she said, ‘but let’s not talk like that now.’ ‘How long will you miss me?’ he persisted. And she just smiled and said, ‘I guess until I see you again.'”

“A lot of pain comes with God’s plan sometimes,” Soward has said. “But April is going to be fine.”

Have you heard about the Woods or the Smiths’ tragic and touching stories?

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