The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

May 25, 2013

Tornado upon them, quick choices decided fate

(Continued)

She glanced over at the garage where Scott had finally taken refuge.

"I probably wouldn't be standing here right now if I had lost him," she said as she stood in front of the mangled home. "It's just too much. It's just too much. ... He is my other half."

___

Shirley Parrish tries not to be a burden to others.

When macular degeneration began stealing her eyesight, her boss at the gasket company where she'd worked since the 1970s would send his son to drive her to the office. But in December 2010, she retired, unable to suppress the guilty feeling that "everybody was babysitting me."

No longer trusting herself to maneuver the Chevy pickup in the driveway, the 80-year-old widow relied on her son, Eldon, to take her places.

She and her late husband, Wayne, had never built a shelter. Every rain had always left water standing in the backyard, and they figured the conditions weren't right.

So as Monday's tornado approached, Parrish simply grabbed Little Bit, her 12-year-old dachshund, and headed to her bedroom closet.

She left the television turned up high so she could follow the weather reports. She didn't hear neighbor Steve Flynn pounding on the door to invite her into his backyard bunker.

A few miles away in Norman, Eldon's wife Shari Parrish was leaving work to go be with her mother-in-law when her husband called. Stay put, Eldon said, and he called his mother.

When the phone in her bedroom rang, she emerged from her hiding place, cradling Little Bit in one arm.

Go next door to the shelter, Eldon told her.

She didn't hesitate. But she had had both knees replaced, and as she scrambled to get up the concrete step of her neighbor's house, she stumbled and fell.

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