by Amy Yen, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
The Austins’ mobile home is a flattened cardboard box with wheels.
By the time their phones went off on December 26, warning them to get out immediately, the wind was already strong enough to shake the trailer. Jeff and Tara grabbed their seven children, got in their neighbor’s van and fled.
“It sounded like a plane crashing. Boom, boom boom!” Jeff recounted. “It came and destroyed everything.”
A few days later, an American Red Cross volunteer took the Austins to see the wreckage. Jeff is emotional as he points at a picture of what used to be their home.
“Look at this, this was our house. Three more minutes, I don’t think any of us would have survived. I just thank God nobody was hurt.”
The Austins eventually found their way to the Red Cross shelter in Garland, where they met shelter volunteer Susan McMahan, who helped them begin to feel hope again.
“When I got here, I was so depressed. I didn’t feel like anyone could help me. We don’t have a house to go back to. We don’t have anywhere to go,” explained Jeff. “Susan was so comforting. She even made our bed up! That’s when I said, wow, this lady’s incredible. She showed that she has a heart that’s bigger than anyone. I feel a lot better, just knowing someone cares.”
It is Susan’s day off, but she has stopped in to the shelter to check on the Austins.
“When I saw her, I just started smiling. My heart is smiling,” said Jeff. “It’s things like that that make you breathe and make it
so you can take it one day at a time. We’ve been through a lot but we got through it. I feel so comfortable now. Especially when Susan’s here, oh my God, I feel so comfortable! This lady didn’t have any sleep, she was just helping us. She didn’t have to do that. She went above and beyond. Since we got here, we haven’t wanted for anything. We got showers, we got towels, everybody’s been so nice.”
Jeff and Tara are now looking forward to getting their family back to normal, something they now feel is possible again.
“I’m glad that we have a roof over our head. I trust that the Red Cross will help us get back on our feet. I trust you will help us, because you already have. I don’t know how many times we can say thank you.”