Please read the Author's note before starting this story.
There's a land not visible to our worldly eyes. Only a few, faith-filled believers have the precious sight to see the Spirit Realm. It exists in many levels tied to one universal truth; The Lord's love for us and Satan's hate for all of God's children.
In a tiny spot, tucked away from all evil, is a small log cabin by the edge of a pine forest. The smoke trickles from the stone chimney while Hammie is silently reading the Bible in his rocking chair. It was Jesus who gave them the gift of reading and writing. No man or woman of their time would have dared to teach them. If caught, it would quickly cost them their lives.
Sarabeth is banging pots together, trying to finish up their supper. It's incredible the things you can cook with vegetables from the garden and fruit from the Tree of Life. Angel friends bring them supplies weekly and will always stay for a Sarabeth cooked meal.
Sarabeth hollers, "Supper on de table, Hammie."
"Thanks, de Lord, I powerfully hungry." Hammie rises but hears someone walking the path towards the cabin. Hammie smiles, then kneels, saying, "Mah, Lord."
Sarabeth hears Hammie then comes to greet our Savior. "Mah Lord, mah Lord. Welcome!"
"Rise, my two beautiful children." His smile is as wide as the Mississippi River. "It's so good to see you again." Jesus grabs them both in a loving embrace.
"Will Yuh grace us by stayin' fuh supper?" Sarabeth asks. "We havin' fried taters, baked orange squash, wid all de fixin's, and Tree of Life fruit pie."
Hammie's stomach growls.
"Yes, ma'am! It sounds delicious. No wonder the list to bring you two supplies is a mile long, and every angel that visits comes back five pounds heavier." Jesus heartily laughs.
Sarabeth and Hammie take His hands then lead Him to their modest table.
After a delicious meal, Jesus is reclining in Hammie's rocking chair, rubbing his stomach. Hammie and Sarabeth sit at His feet, waiting for any word from Him.
"You are a true blessing, Sarabeth. I can't remember when I've had a better meal."
Sarabeth blushes a little, and says, "Thank Yuh, Lord."
"I came here to ask both of you a question. Being that it's been 155 years since your death in 1864, aren't you tired of visiting the earth? You could be comfortably resting in your graves, waiting for a day that will come soon. When we all go home for a thousand years."
"Well." Hammie tries to find the right words. "Freedom is feelin' we never had befo', 'til Yuh gave it, Lord. Freedom tuh help others, spreads Yo' word, shares de love Yuh give us. I reck'n I never stop. Can't speak fuh Sarabeth, though."
"Tis more, to me. It shows de devil, dat all the evil he did tuh me, made me love dat much more. I never quit fightin' fuh others, Lord. Yuh taught me dat." Sarabeth's smile is radiant.
"What devoted servants you have become, my children. I am so privileged to know both of you and call you my friends. I want to tell you that there is trouble ahead for West Tennessee. A storm is brewing, and many will need your help."
They both smile, and Sarabeth says, "We ready, Lord."
Pinson is a small town located south of Jackson, Tennessee. Most southerners would call the city, a widening in the road, blink and you'll miss it. But Pinson is more than that. In 1820, a surveyor named John Pinson discovered the largest group of Middle Woodland Period Indian Mounds in the United States. It was in a secluded area where most men had never traveled before.
The site was turned into a park in the late 1950s and became a state park in 1974.
Another honor bestowed on Pinson happened on March eleventh, 1923, when an F5 tornado ripped through the town, destroying 50 homes and businesses - one of the strongest storms ever recorded in West Tennessee. It also took eighteen lives. Madison County Firehouse #13 is right off Bear Creek Road in Pinson. It consists of one fire truck and is the only first responders in the area.
Fire Chief, Marshal Webb, is checking the local weather alerts on Jackson Weather Net. Marshal wipes the sweat from his brow. "It's not supposed to be seventy-nine degrees on December sixteenth."
He notices the Severe Storm warning for Madison County and a tornado threat for all of West Tennessee. "It seems we are at a TorCon of 8, which means there is an 80% chance of a tornado within fifty miles."
"That's one of the highest ratings I've ever seen. I better call Richard and Travis and put them on alert. We may be needed, but let's hope not."
Radar indicates a massive storm forming in front of a squawl line crossing the Mississippi River out of Arkansas. That line reaches deep into Indiana and extends to the Louisiana gulf coast. It's powered by an intense cold front racing at sixty-miles-per-hour towards the South, dropping temperatures forty degrees in its wake. The storm quickly climbs to a severe level, and radar indicates rotation within the cloud.
A storm spotter, on Bear Creek Road, sees a mile-wide funnel start to descend from the south end of the cloud and quickly calls it in.
Ten miles from Pinson, the funnel touches down in a harvested cornfield. It begins to devour dirt and trees along a fence line. Nothing escapes this 220 mile-per-hour vortex of destruction.
The evening quiet at the Eckart home is disturbed by the blaring of tornado sirens. Jonathon quickly checks the radar on the internet. Red triangles, indicating tornadoes, fill the screen from Paris to Selmer. An extensive tornado outbreak is happening on his computer screen.
"Start calling everybody, Lila. We're about to get hit hard."
The tornado continues in a straight line down Bear Creek Road swallowing tractors, barns, cows, bales of hay, and anything in its path, including the asphalt from the road.
Marshal Webb is standing outside the firehouse, watching the sky darken quickly. There seems to be a green haze in the cloud, which usually indicates a giant tornado. Many families have storm shelters, but the largest one is the firehouse. They built it to withstand a direct hit from a storm.
The families from Bear Creek Road and College Street quickly make their way inside. The girls from the Dollar General immediately close the store and start running towards the firehouse. The Exxon on Highway Forty-five has a cooler to protect them, and Bray's Furniture closed at four-thirty. That should cover the west side of Highway Forty-five.
Lila and Jonathon are standing outside their shelter; they've been calling everyone in the neighborhood to make sure they have a safe place to ride out this storm. "If you can't get in the basement, Mrs. Jones, I will come to get you. We have room in our shelter. No one needs to be out in this storm. Hey, I'll text the Williams to help you."
"Where are the kids?" Lila hollers.
"They're already in the shelter; I'm waiting on Mrs. Jones, and the Williams from down the street. That should have everybody covered on this side of the highway. I hope they got everyone else in the firehouse. Go ahead and get in." Jonathon sees Pete and Addie Williams helping Mrs. Jones down the street then into their front yard.
The tornado as changed some; it's narrowed to a half-mile and looks more like a rope. This process has also increased the wind speed to 230 miles-per-hour. It continues down Bear Creek Road placing Pinson directly in its path.
Thadious Brown's farm is less than a mile from the firehouse. The storm flattens their home and barn leaving behind complete desolation. With little effort, it consumes their semi grain truck deep into the funnel.
Marshal finally sees the tornado raging down Bear Creek Road. The powerful sound rattles the building, and he begins to feel the pull of the wind. Marshal quickly closes and bars the door. He hollers, "Everybody against the west wall. That's the direction of the tornado, and it's a big one!" Mothers and their children begin to cry out and pray for help. Forty-seven people in all, brace for the storm's impact.
The raging tornado speeds towards the firehouse. It's like the storm shifted gears when it came into view splitting the two Oak trees beside the firehouse like kindling.
Marshal feels the building vibrate when the funnel touches the western end of the building. Everyone covers their ears as the tornado batters the firehouse. Suddenly, an eerie quiet envelopes the firehouse. All they hear is a rising wind in the center of the vortex.
The backside of the tornado slams into the firehouse throwing the Brown's grain truck into the western wall at 220 miles-per-hour - it collapses the roof, the cinder block wall, then lands on top of the firetruck. The wall and rafters rain down on everyone.
The storm continues down Bear Creek Road, flattening every home in its path. It moves past College Street towards Bray's Furniture engulfing cars, trucks, and outbuildings along the way.
Bray's furniture has been in Pinson for many years, helping people in many ways. But nothing could save it from this storm. The tornado twists the steel girders like play dough, shattering the glass and throwing it like shrapnel at 200 miles-per-hour.
The funnel continues across Highway Forty-five and obliterates the Caffienne Kisses coffee shop. It destroys four more homes when the storm crosses Oak Drive then into the woods. It drifts over the lake beside State Route 197 then continues through the old cemetery, throwing tombstones in all directions.
After twenty-two miles of eradicating everything in its path, the funnel drifts upward back into the storm. The entire process took less than ten minutes.
An unnerving silence envelopes them.
Jonathon and Lila are the first to venture out of their storm shelter. He sees none of the homes on 197 are damaged, but spots the path of the storm across the street.
When all the families step out onto the road for a headcount, they find tombstones scattered along the way. Branches are thrown up against their homes, but there's no significant damage.
A young man comes running down the road, hollering, "Please, de firehouse dun fell. Dere's people trapped, many are hurt."
Jonathon turns to Lila, and says, "Get everybody you can then head to the firehouse. Check your phone and see if 911 is working. We need rescue units and ambulances, fast. I'm heading that way."
Jonathon hops in his old Ford truck then takes off for the firehouse. He starts across the highway and notices the road is missing in many places. He turns onto where Bear Creek Road once was, and the devastation is complete. Only the stumps of trees and the concrete foundations of eleven homes are left.
When he pulls beside the firehouse, he sees the rear corner of the grain truck sticking out of the roof. The wall has mostly collapsed on the western and southern side, but the steel door kept it some of it standing.
There's the young man who relayed what happened, and a young woman moving rubble out of the way.
Jonathon runs up to them, saying, "There's a door on the other side. Let's see if we can get in that way." They quickly run to the other door. Jonathon tries it. "It's jammed, too."
"My name, Hammie." He smiles at Jonathon. "I get it open." Hammie studies the door for a second. He turns around, and mule kicks the steel door off its hinges.
The sound of moaning and crying greet them as they enter. The semi teeters on the fire truck as another rafter falls from the ceiling.
Jonathon hollers, "We have to brace the truck up before it falls on them."
Hammie proceeds to take one of the large Oak rafters lying on the floor. With all of his strength, he rams it under the truck and braces it against the floor. It stabilizes the semi for the moment.
"Won't hold fuh long." Hammie smiles.
Jonathon is too stunned to move.
Sarabeth runs to the rubble and starts digging out the victims, she hollers, "Mister, we need tuh move dese peoples outside. Help us, please."
Hammie begins to move cinder blocks to the front, out of the way. The first person they find is Marshal Webb, his spine, crushed by a section of concrete and not breathing.
Sarabeth moves a few more blocks and hears a cry. She helps a mother and baby from beneath the rubble.
Hammie stands beside a section of the wall, and there are several trapped underneath. "Help me, Jonathon?"
He snaps to attention and quickly moves to Hammie's aid. The two find strength from above to lift this large section of the wall. Several people crawl slowly to safety. Sarabeth quickly leads them outside.
Headlights begin to shine through the door. Figures dance in front of the lights, then helping hands appear in the darkness.
Hammie and Johnathon move to another part of the collapsed wall. He looks at Hammie, and says, "We got this!" They raise another large section onto its end. Neighbors extend hands to the trapped victims.
Three more men join Hammie and Jonathon at the corner of the building. Rafters are on top of the last fallen wall.
Jonathon turns to the other men. "If you three can move the rafters, Hammie and I will stand the wall up."
"We can move the rafters, but there's no way you two can lift that wall."
"Watch us." Jonathon slides beside Hammie. "We need to raise the wall then turn it this way, Hammie."
"Yes, 'em." Hammie smiles. "Yuh got de faith now?"
"Sure do, Hammie. Let's move it."
The men move the two rafters off the concrete and turn their eyes to Jonathon and Hammie.
They both struggle at first, then the wall starts to move, and the other men join in. Jonathon can feel something burning inside of him, and he sees it in Hammie's eyes. It's the desire to free these people for the Lord.
The wall rises into a standing position.
Hammie and Jonathon spin it then brace it against the firetruck. "We need to get these people out of here." Jonathon hollers. "It's not going to stand here for long."
The neighbors leap into action, gathering the injured out of harm's way. Jonathon and Hammie each have one hand on the wall, watching everybody suddenly become passionate, loving people, helping their brothers and sisters to safety.
Flashlights suddenly appear inside and begin to search the entire building for more victims. Hammie and Jonathon are still bracing the wall against the firetruck.
"It looks like we're all clear," A voice with a flashlight declares.
"Run, Jonathon." Hammie hollers. "Be right behind yuh."
He didn't have to tell him twice. Jonathon scurries under the rafter holding the truck. He steps out the door, and the beam snaps under the weight of the balanced semi. It causes the wall and truck to collapse onto the floor. A cloud of concrete dust billows out the door.
"Nooo!" Jonathon screams. "Hammie is in there!"
Hammie puts his hand on Jonathon's shoulder. "Heah, I is, Jonathon."
"Thank God." Jonathon wraps both arms around Hammie.
"My baby!" a mother's plea pierces the silence. "She's not breathing."
Sarabeth hurries to her side. "Pray wid me quickly." She takes Sarabeth's hands. "Oh, Lord, bring breath back, tuh dis chile. In Jesus' name. Amen!" Her hands begin to vibrate, a surge of power emanates from within her.
The child begins to cough out the concrete dust that was clogging her lungs. The mother moves her injured shoulder, and there's no pain. "Thank you, sweetie!"
"We finally got through to 911." Lila runs to Jonathon. "They're sending the Rescue Unit and all the ambulances they can spare. The radio is reporting that fifteen tornados touched down. Many people are hurting all over West Tennessee."
Jonathon looks out at everyone gathered, and says, "Let's all pray for our neighbors."
Jonathon Eckart looks out at the crowd gathered around the new, Marshal Webb, firehouse. "It's been six months to the day since tragedy struck the town of Pinson. We stand here today, remembering the only loss in our community. Marshal Webb was the kindest man I knew. He cared about everyone in this town and was determined to keep all of us safe. He gave his life protecting the residents of Pinson. We need to thank God for Marshal, and many things today. Our lives, our love, and each other. We can't forget our friends, Hammie and Sarabeth. No one knew where they came from or where they went. But to us, they were angels sent directly from heaven."