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Matthew Seals, Defining Moment

My story....
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April 8, 1998 started out as a typical day, however, it ended up being one that forever changed my life....

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This day started out as any other day for me and my family.  I got up and went to work (I was an electrician for Jerrell Electric).  Nathan went to school and Christie, my wife at the time was home with our then 3-year old and 1-year old children.  Severe storms were forecast for the day but we had no idea what was to come.
 
It was a Wednesday and the typical evening routine was to go to church, however, a family member was sick, the weather was bad and we decided to stay home that night.  Around 7 o'clock, tornado warnings were being issued for Tuscaloosa county, which is just west of where we lived.  Reports of serious damage were coming in on the TV and we were getting a little concerned.
 
By around 7:30 or so, warnings started coming out for Jefferson County (we lived in Western Jefferson).  I was watching the local ABC affiliate to hear the latest.  Unbeknownst to us, a tornado had already touched down and caused massive damage about 10 miles from us -- it obliterated Oak Grove High School and several homes.  Then, it came.
 
James Spann, our  local ABC33/40 meteorologist, warned us that it was close; we just did not realize how close.  I had already taken the family and a mattress from the bed and gotten in the middle bedroom closet. I would not have done that without wall to wall coverage of the weather. I walked back into the living room to watch the tv, and then I heard it. I knew what it was. It was a low pitched roar and it grew louder and louder.  I thought to myself that we may get some broken windows and missing roof shingles. All of a sudden it was right on top of us. I heard the transformer explode,the roof was ripped, the floor buckled and the house with us with it, is torn apart.
 
When I awoke, I was lying between 200 and 300 feet away from where our home once stood.  I was dazed and confused and thought something was laying across me because I could not feel my legs. I knew my right arm was broken because I couldn't pick it up and it hurt some.  I later learned that I had been thrown through a wall so when me and this piece of wall hit the ground the blunt force tramat broke my back at the T12 level, causing a spinal cord injury and paralysis.
 
I heard Christie about 15 feet away from me, calling out for me and our other children.  Margaret and John-Michael had landed safely under some debris that ended up sheltering them from the additional wind and rain.  They were crying and upset but OK.  Unfortunately, Nathan's injuries were very severe -- he was lying next to his mother, unconscious with severe head injuries.  Christie was is RN and at the time actually worked on the pediatric ICU at Birmingham Childrens' Hospital and she was aware of what was going on with his condition, however, due to her own injuries (a badly broken leg, 7 broken ribs and a punctured lung), she couldn't move.
 
Our next-door neighbors, Mike and Diane Calmer, were in an underground room in their basement, and this was what saved their lives.  Shortly before the tornado hit, Diane had a strong feeling that this storm was different and they needed to be completely underground.  Their room was full of stuff, but Diane and Mike frantically worked at getting it emptied out enough so that they could squeeze in.  They barely got themselves into the room when the tornado hit.  What didn't blow away of their house caved in on the basement, and had they not been in the underground room, they would have been crushed. 
They began calling out to see if we were ok and searching in the dark for us  We told them we were hurt pretty bad and that Nathan was unconscious.  They found John-Michael and Margaret and got them to safety, then Mike went check on their other family near by and to find help.  Due to the damage, it took them 3-4 hours to get back to us. 
 
The massive F5 tornado was on the ground for several miles.  It leveled our Rock Creek neighborhood and sadly, killed many friends and neighbors.  Emergency vehicles from all over the county were dispatched, however, with all the trees, powerlines and scattered debris, they had to park over a mile away and come in on foot.  When helped arrived they took Nathan out first because he was the most critical. Then they took me out on a door.  I was in and out of consciousness the rest of the night but do remember seeing massive damage and lines of emergency vehicles.
 
 

 

  

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