A woman who lost 10 family members when a deadly tornado ripped through a small town in Alabama is speaking out to reveal the full horror of the disaster.
Cora Jones, 52, fought back tears as she spoke of the crushing grief that’s followed losing her parents, brother, cousin, niece and a second cousin of her mother’s in the EF-4 tornado that devastated Beauregard on Sunday afternoon.
‘I ain’t getting through it good at all,’ she told NBC News on Thursday.
“I just got so many questions, but you know, you don’t question the Lord.
‘Just why, why, you know, why? Why this had to happen like this? To everybody that you know and love? At one time? Why?’
Jones said she had been looking forward to cooking up a special meal for her parents on Sunday to thank them for supporting her over the past few months after she lost her job and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
What was supposed to be a fun day with family turned into a nightmare as the twister packing 170mph winds tore through the unincorporated town of 10,000 people, razing countless houses to the ground.
Among them was the home of Mary Louise Jones, 83, and Jimmy Lee Jones, 89, who were killed just after returning home from church.
After the tornado passed, Jones, whose home was undamaged, rushed to her parents’ place a few roads away to check on them.
‘When I got up that hill, I see no houses. Everything was gone,’ she said.
‘I just couldn’t believe it. It looked like someone took a chainsaw and went “swoop”,’ she said, making a wide sweeping motion with her hand.
Jones found her father’s body, and was then asked by emergency personnel to identify her mother.
‘Just the image — I will never get out of my head. They really didn’t want me to see the picture, but I had to identify the body,’ she said.
She later learned that eight other members of her extended family were among the 23 people killed in a two-mile-area that experienced the tornado’s worst destruction.
Besides her parents, Jones’ brother, Emmanuel Jones, 53, was killed, along with her relatives Maggie Delight Robinson, 57; Raymond Robinson, Jr., 63; Tresia Robinson, 62; Eric Jamal Stenson, 38; Florel Tate Stenson; 63; Henry Lewis Stenson, 65, and James Tate, 86.
The first of the funerals for her family will be held on Saturday.
Jones said that she hasn’t allowed herself to really cry yet, telling NBC: ‘When I break down, I’m going to break down. I might need two or three days to myself.’
Losing her mother has hit Jones especially hard. She said their last conversation was about the Sunday dinner they had planned, which included her mom’s favorite: sweet potatoes.
‘I had no idea I was seeing my mama for the last time, and I would have so many things to tell her,’ Jones said.
She added: ‘Tell somebody you love them every day. You might not mean it, but just tell them, because you don’t know — you might not even come back.’
At least a dozen tornadoes were reported in the Deep South on Sunday afternoon as a massive storm system tore across parts of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, leaving more than 40,000 people without power.
The Beauregard tornado – the deadliest in the US since 2013 – carved a path 24 miles long and nearly a mile wide through Lee County.
President Donald Trump is expected to visit the damage-stricken area Friday.
Twenty-three people were killed, including four children aged six, eight, nine and ten.
Jones’ father Jimmy Lee was the oldest of the victims.
Lee County Coroner Brian Harris revealed the names of the victims on Tuesday. He said all but two of them were found outside their homes, with some of the bodies found two to three lots away from where they were when the storm hit.
All of them died from multiple blunt force injuries, both internal and external. Some had to be identified using family photos.
The full list of victims is seen below:
Armando Hernandez, six
Mykala Waldon, eight
Jonathan Marquez Bowen, nine
Taylor Thornton, ten
Ryan Pence, 22
Felicia Woodall, 22
Eric Jamal Stenson, 38
Irma Gomez-Moran, 41
David Wayne Dean, 53
Emmanuiel Jones, 53
Maggie Delight Robinson, 57
Marshall Lynn Grimes, 59
Sheila Creech, 59
Charlotte Ann Miller, 59
Tresia Robinson, 62
Raymond Robinson Jr, 63
Florel Tate Stenson, 63
Henry Lewis Stenson, 65
Mamie Roberts Koon, 68
Vicki Braswell, 69
Mary Louise Jones, 83
James Henry Tate, 86
Jimmy Lee Jones, 89
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Megan Sheets