Illinois Tornado Victims Tell Tales of Survival, Hope

Community fights through aftermath of Sunday's tornado

Amid the broken homes and scattered belongings in Washington, Ill., is a community refusing to give up hope, even after it was devastated by a deadly tornado Sunday.

An E-4 twister struck the community in the afternoon, killing one and injuring dozens of others, part of a massive surge that swept across the entire state.

Cheryl Ingram counts herself among the lucky ones who survived. She ran down the stairs minutes before the tornado hit and was soon trapped by debris.

"I grabbed the cushions off my couch and covered up and just prayed," Ingram said. "Within an hour I heard somebody if anybody needed help. I was perfectly fine, but the stairwell was filled with debris and I couldn't get out."

Laurel Icox and her husband rode out the tornado in her basement.

"I told my husband to grab the dog, I grabbed my purse, my phone, we went downstairs and we had about 30 seconds to spare. And the whole house shaking, and you could hear glass breaking and creaking and the noise was incredible," Icox said.

The destruction was more selective in Diamond, Ill., barely touching some homes and completely destroying others.

Nobody died in the small town, but residents still have harrowing tales of waiting out the storm.

"We were hearing things just hit the house and rumbling all over," said Laura Bischoff, who waited out the storm in her basement with her family. "Doors were off, windows were blown. It was just devastating."

But several of the Bischoff's neighbors in the tight-knit subdivision were hit even worse.

"We didn't think we would have much damage, we never lost power through the entire ordeal," Jennifer Elliot said.

Manhattan and neighboring Frankfort were also heavily hit by tornadoes.

"We've seen storms blow through before, but they were blown around us. They didn't come through. This one came through," Jim Allen said, as he picked up the pieces from his damaged home.

Cheryl Allen's sister and nieces were scrounging around on the floor, digging through insulation looking for her wedding ring. Although this story had a happy ending, as hours later it was found. Someone else had put it away for safekeeping.

Stormchaser Todd Cannon rode out the storm with his son, Matthew, in their SUV. The vehicle was severely damaged as a result, and Cannon said he and his son were saved by "the grace of God."

"Honestly, I thought we were going to die," Cannon said.

Back in town, Ryan Bowers took cover in his basement with his wife and 3-month-old daughter. The couple lay on top of the baby to protect her from falling debris.

"Things were dropping on top of me and splitting in two, like the part of the wall, I think," he said. "We crawled out and looked around, couldn't believe it."

The family made it out unharmed, and Bowers' wife said their daughter even slept through the incident.

Residents are now combing through what's left of their community. For many, the devastation is simply too much to comprehend.

"Nobody has anything left," resident Nancy Rampy said. "It's all gone. It's just awful."

"We'll get through this because we all stand together," Rampy said.

Contact Us