Storming Back: Julie turns 49, her sister thankful for another birthdayWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: Toledo Free Press will follow the Blank family of Millbury for the next year as they rebuild their lives after a June 5 tornado destroyed their home.
Julie Blank’s big sister will be glad to see her only sibling turn 49 on Feb. 26. And not because she always jokes that she is the younger sister.
“Everything that has happened since the tornado is more special,” said Kathy Williamson of Perrysburg. “I cannot imagine being without her. Ed, too and Casey, too. Besides my immediate family they are all I have because we are not a big family.”
When Kathy gave her nephew Casey his birthday gift shortly after the June 5 tornado, she thanked God for that birthday and hoped for many more.
“It is the same thing for Thanksgiving. Same at Christmas. I don’t think you really know until you have been through it and could have potentially lost them how glad you are to be spending holidays with them,” she said.
Kathy was on the phone with Julie when the tornado destroyed her sister’s home. Deathly afraid of storms, they talked as they sat in their basements.
“We are just talking about the weather and I could see from looking out the window it was bad,” Kathy said.
Then, they lost connection.
“I thought that was odd. I thought maybe with the storm, something fluky happened. I tried to call her back,” Kathy said.
But no one answered. Kathy tried everyone’s cell phone. Nothing.
Then, all of a sudden, she got a call from Casey’s cell. She vividly remembers the conversation with her sister.
“It is gone.”
“What is gone?”
“My house is gone.”
“I felt sad from the standpoint that I wasn’t helping her get out. I am the big sister, so I felt like I should have been there,” Kathy said.
When they finally reunited, Kathy and Julie hugged and sobbed. For months, Kathy would rehash the night of the tornado. She was tormented knowing her sister lost her neighbors.
Now that Julie and her family are back in their rebuilt home, Kathy is comforted by the normalcy.
Part of returning to normal is celebrating birthdays. Julie likes to make a big deal out of her birthday and, this year, Ed has decided to embrace her excitement. For his wife’s birthday, Ed has bought her a gift every day of the month. The gifts have included her favorite wine, lottery tickets, candy and a bead for her Pandora bracelet.
But the best gift is life. The tragedy of the tornado cemented that for Kathy.
“I remember it like it happened yesterday. That is how vivid it is in my mind. I think it is going to take a long time to get rid of those memories,” she said.