By CAROL DAWSON
HENRYVILLE — We Survived: A Hopeful Spirit after the Storm
Trish Gilles sat curled up on her new white sofa, carefully guarding her left hip from pressure. Just the week before, Trish endured what she hopes to be the last surgery related to injuries sustained in the Henryville tornado.
During the interview, Trish was not her typical upbeat self, instead revealing a significantly more pensive side of her personality. This is the last interview in the follow-up series, “We Survived: A Hopeful Spirit after the Storm,” although there are plans to catch up with the Gilles family at the tornado’s one-year mark.
Darrell sat on the floor, leaning his arms on the coffee table as he listened to his wife of 14 years talk about their new home and life in recovery after March 2.
‘CHALLENGE AND CHANGE’
The Gilles boys (Caleb, now age 12 and Collin, now 11) were in the basement playing video games, while 9-year-old Mia fidgeted on the couch next to her mother. The family moved into their new home Sept. 21 and immediately welcomed friends and family back to the same location where their first home stood. Driving down the gravel road to the Gilles home for the first time is a bit eerie, as large mounds of wood, dirt and debris remain on both sides of the road.
The mounds are the remnants of the Gilles’ previous home and until they can be removed, stand as a constant reminder of their lives before March 2. The mounds contain the only home known to the Gilles children and the one where Trish and Darrell first became an independent married couple. Trish was clearly happy in that home filled with cherished memories. She spends time now wondering if anything will ever be the same and most days she is sure it will not.
The EF-4 tornado charged into the Gilles’ home nearly eight months ago and each of the children have since celebrated their birthdays and countless major changes in their lives. While Trish and Darrell are grateful and fully aware of the significance of each child celebrating another birthday, they both wonder if life for them will ever settle into a comfortable pattern.
“You see, these kids have had to really grow up quickly,” Darrell explained. “They saw things they never should have had to see and have come through it all with strength and resilience.” Trish adds, “The words we use to describe our lives now are challenge and change.”
‘WE RESPECT THEIR FEAR’
The recovery process is obviously not over, and yet Trish and Darrell will tell you that losing their independence has already taken a considerable toll on not only their immediate family, but also for those who have loved and cared for them for the past several months. They both spoke of being more emotional and reactionary.
Trish continues to heal and Darrell deals with lingering pains from initial injuries, while the children have been blessed with good health and healed bodies. There appears to be no lingering nightmares and all three children claim they no longer fear the storms. Their parents know better.
Mia said, “The storms don’t scare me now because I have a basement to run to for protection.” Trish smiled and then scooted Mia off to play in another room. As Mia cheerfully skipped out of the room, Trish said, “Each of our children have a different way of responding when the storms come; they try to be brave but we can tell they become nervous and anxious.” Darrell agrees, “They want to be near us and they become quiet … we respect their fear.”
A PEACEFUL RECOVERY
Trish and Darrell began talking about their new home and when asked if it feels like home, they stopped talking and wistfully looked at one another. After a moment of quiet reflection, the couple began a tag-team response. Trish softly responded, “We seem to be in conflict with the way we feel and way we think others believe we should feel.”
Darrell explained, “We couldn’t be more appreciative of everything that has been done for us … from Dale Doty and Cody Brock saving our lives, to the generous donations, to the contractors who built this awesome house at cost.”
Trish picked up on Darrell’s comment and added, “We absolutely know we are so very blessed to have all walked away from that horrible disaster with our lives — everything gone now was just our material possessions and most can be replaced; however, it is still a loss. Then we stop to think that so many lost much more from the tornado, including lost lives, and we feel a tremendous amount of guilt for feeling sad for our lost home.”
Darrell walked out of the room and came back with a box of tissue and handed them to his wife.
Trish dropped her head as the tears slipped on to the pillow she held on her lap. She tried to sum up her feelings of sadness.
“The children seem to have easily adjusted to their new home, but I still feel I am visiting someone else’s beautiful new house.” Then she straightened her back and added, “I have yet to even put all of my clothes in the closet … I mean, I loved my little home, with all of its memories, all of its joy, and all of its comfort — it just didn’t need to be messed with.”
Both Darrell and Trish see this as a reality — no new home, furniture, basement or newly planted tree in the yard can ever restore the lives they led before the tornado. They have all changed. Still, nobody can deny that they have met the challenge, relented to change, and through it all, they have persevered and set out on the path to a peaceful recovery.
Although they realize now that nothing will ever be the same for them and their three children, Trish and Darrell feel certain that one day this new house will become their home. The transformation into their warm and loving home will likely occur seamlessly once the Gilles house is filled with laughter, memories and milestones.