HELP ALL AROUND
During the rescue, other neighbors started to prepare the way for help to arrive, as well as a route for the injured to escape.
“While we were pulling Stephanie out of that rubble, people were already out with tractors and chain saws. I could already hear chain saws cutting trees up out of the road,” Youell said. “Immediately, I mean right after it happened. People were already coming out and getting ready to help who needed help. Just the fact that everybody was doing what we were doing and were trying to help anybody. I’ll never forget that.”
Stumbling to remove Decker from the debris, the neighbors transported her to a truck. Youell and Lovins returned to help others in need. Smallwood tended to Decker in the back as a driver drove them north away from the devastation.
Both fully aware of the severity, they spoke about the situation. Even in immense pain, he said she managed a few jokes.
“We talked for a long time. I said ‘Oh my God. Your foot looks awful.’ [Decker] said, ‘You don’t look that great either,’” Smallwood said. “She said, ‘There goes my pedicures.’ I just looked at her in shock. What am I going to say to that?”
Eventually, Smallwood rendezvoused with an ambulance which then transported Decker to the hospital. In the following days, doctors amputated portions of both of her legs. She has since been recovering and received national attention for helping protect her children from the storm. She has been to Yankee Stadium via invitation from the team and on Friday, met President Barack Obama at the White House.
“I got really emotional about all this because I knew Steph. We’d been to their house. They’ve been to our place,” Lovins said. “It worked out. That’s all that matters.”
Smallwood nodded in agreement.
“It did and I don’t know how. Every card fell in place,” he said. “We were definitely being looked over because it could have gone wrong at any given time.”
Although recollections of the afternoon continue to haunt, recovery has started. Smallwood’s parents have begun to rebuild their house. Henryville-Otisco Road looks a little more like its former self each day. But Lovins doesn’t think the area will ever look the same, at least, he said, not in his lifetime.
Dana Smallwood, when asked about her lasting memory of the storms, summarized the group’s experience of seeing their devastated community.
“Every day is a lasting memory,” she said.
— Amanda Beam is a freelance writer who lives in Floyd County.