MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Over the past week, volunteer clean-up efforts arranged by Marines and Sailors aboard Cherry Point helped remove debris from within the community after a tornado touched down in Craven County April 16. The tornado caused significant structural damage in Havelock and New Bern.
“People are not joking when they say a tornado sounds like a freight train,” said Cpl. Sabrina N. Burton, a maintenance administrator with Marine Attack Squadron 223 and resident of the Village of Falcon Bridge.
Falcon Bridge was just one of the local areas affected by the tornadoes that tore through Eastern North Carolina.
“I was sitting in my home watching television with my mom when the power went out,” said Burton. “No sooner had I lit a candle did I hear the rumble of the storm approaching. I ran and picked up my 13-month-old daughter, and the three of us got into the bath tub.”
Burton said about 15-20 seconds later the tornado passed, and they emerged from their house to check on their neighbors.
“We were all checking and making sure we had full accountability of our neighborhood,” said Burton. “We didn’t care about our houses and didn’t realize the damage for almost a half hour. We just wanted to find everyone and make sure no one was hurt.”
After the neighbors were accounted for, the residents began to realize the damage that had been done to their small community. Bedrooms were demolished, fences were down, tree branches were snapped, and patio furniture was misplaced.
Some homes were destroyed, and some had minor structural damage.
“It really takes you a minute to realize how lucky these families are,” said Cpl. Ryan L. Hughes, a supply clerk with 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion. “One person had a tree through their roof, and one had a tree fall on their child’s bedroom. The fact that no one got hurt in this event is a miracle.”
Over the next several days, Marines from Cherry Point-based units arrived on the scene to help the residents with the clean-up of the debris and put up tarps over the holes created by the trees thrown by the tornado.
“It’s all about the Marine Corps family helping other families,” said Hughes. “We will be out here helping every day till there is nothing for us to do here. We need to come together as a community and help these families because that is what is right.”
Residents of the area are grateful for all the people who have stopped and helped, especially the Marines.
“It is a blessing to this village to have the Marines come out and help the community,” said Burton. “From the first day when a truckload of Marines showed up on their day off to the Marines who have been here day after day, we are very grateful to the Marines. It just goes to show what a community can do when disaster strikes.”