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“We’re alive but everything’s gone”

By Kay S. Pedrotti ’718 to 208…we’re alive but everything’s gone.’ ’That’s the way we communicate,’ said Milner police officer Emily Blackmon. For her, the April 13 tornado was a time of fear overcome by prayer. She was in the family’s Jackson Drive home, covering her children in a bathtub. For Barnesville PD Sgt. Jesse Blackmon (201), who was on duty, that was a time of trying to deal with his terror about whether his wife and two children would survive. Emily said that Jesse asked whether he should stay home from his shift, and she said ‘we’ll be all right.’ Not too long after he left, she heard that the location of her home was in the direct path of the EF3 tornado ravaging Upson County. ’When a family member called about our location being in the path of the tornado, and to take shelter immediately, the kids and I gathered up quilts and blankets and went to the bathtub. I was holding on to Kayleigh’s head, Kayden was holding his sister too, and she asked whether we were going to die. Within three minutes, everything went dark and all we could hear was a load roaring unlike any noise I’ve ever heard before,’ Emily said. Ten-year old Kayleigh was very scared, and kept asking, ‘is this it?’ Her mother told her ‘God’s got us, God’s got us. I don’t think this is the end.’ Later she told The Herald Gazette, ‘I don’t think I have ever prayed that hard. I also worried about Jesse, because I knew he would be coming back to us.’ She added they felt the house lift off the ground, ‘but I couldn’t tell you how long we were in the air ‘“ we just knew we were. Eventually, it crashed back down, and the floors and walls buckled, and we were trapped. I waited a little while and then started kicking the wall adjacent to my son’s bedroom, and made a hole big enough for us to crawl through. ’We had one vehicle working, so we cleared some trees off the road, climbed in and went to (BPD officer) Sharima Price’s house close to ours. I used her patrol car radio to call Jesse and let him know we were okay. Then I left the kids with Price because I knew they would be safe, and went to find Jesse.’ ’It’s rough picking up your life in the back yard,’ Emily said. ‘We’re trying to salvage all we can ‘¦ but then there’s our police uniforms, our pictures, a lot of memories. We’re just going piece by piece.’ All their outbuildings were damaged. She noted the family will have a tough time dealing with insurance and the fact that only GEMA can help at this time, because there is no federal ‘state of emergency’ to activate FEMA involvement. ’My police training really helped in this situation. ‘˜Protect and move’ is something we’re taught. I protected my children, and as soon as we could, we moved.’There were extra worries about the children, said Emily, because Kayleigh has epilepsy and Kayden, 13, has a brain disorder. The officer said she is ‘overwhelmed by the support people have given us ‘“ friends, family, people we don’t even know.’ Emily had tears in her voice when she said, ‘There was one older woman who gave me six dollars and thirty-three cents, because that was all she had. That meant a lot.’ A account has been set up to help the family. It is entitled ‘Officer and family in need.’

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