Mississippi tornado victims are ‘beautiful souls’

ROLLING Cluster, ma’am. –

With her sister behind the wheel, Queen’terica Jones raced across the flat Mississippi River Delta when a powerful tornado slammed into their mother’s house. The howling winds lifted the rear of their car off the ground and crashed into a church cemetery.

They came too late. The tornado killed their mother, destroyed her house, and devastated the town of Rolling Fork. Without electricity, survivors used cell phone flashlights to search through the rubble. Jones said she found her mother’s lifeless body in the yard, bleeding from the nails driven into her head.

“I don’t want this pain to fall on anyone, not even the enemy,” Jones said Tuesday.

Her mother, Erica “Nikki” Moore, works as a personal care assistant and has six surviving children. Jones says she is “a beautiful soul” who loves to pray and help people.

“She was amazing. A lover,” Jones said. “I mean, nobody’s perfect. Everyone goes through something, but our mom — everyone who knows our mom knows she has a heart of gold.”

At least 21 people in Mississippi and one man in Alabama were killed when storms threatened to tore through the Deep South over the weekend. The toll was particularly high in Sharkey County, west of Mississippi, where Moore was among 13 deaths in a county of 3,700 residents.

County Coroner Angelia Eason said the losses have hit the close-knit community hard.

“I have to define family, that’s what it feels like,” Eason said. “When something like this happens, we tend to get closer together. We lost not only 13 people, but also 13 family members.”

The storm wiped out generations: A woman and her elderly mother were killed, Eason said. Others were in the wrong place, at the wrong time: A man from Yazoo City traveled more than 30 miles (48 km) to enter an auction in Rolling Fork.

TJ Herman said his sister, Linda Herman, and their mother, Luvella Herman, died when the tornado wiped out the mobile home park where they lived. TJ, who lives in Rockford, Illinois, said Linda retired from working at restaurants and took good care of her mother. He said his mother and sister enjoy their uncomplicated life in Rolling Fork.

“The reality is we brought her up here once, and we had to go back and bring her back the next day when she found out that we had to lock the door here,” TJ said Tuesday. mentions his hometown. Rockford. “In her community, no one locks the door. She doesn’t like it very much here.”

Lonnie and Melissa Pierce lived a quiet, peaceful life in town before a tornado swept away their neighbor’s pickup truck and threw it like a bomb on their brick house, killing the couple. .

Lonnie’s friends and neighbors say the retired welder enjoys hunting and fishing for sea bass. Melissa volunteers to join a local Christian charity that runs a small thrift store.

“They’re good. For the best, I can tell you that,” said neighbor Harvey Cockrell, 76, a welder who has worked with Lonnie for decades.

A pile of rubble is all that’s left of the couple’s home after gusts of up to 200 mph (320 km/h) hit the Rolling Fork late Friday. . The 18-wheeler was still parked in the wreckage on Monday, and deer antlers that were once one of Lonnie’s hunting trophies filled the couple’s yard.

As the storm passed, Jermain Wells, a neighbor of Pierces, went door-to-door looking for survivors in need. When he reached the ruins of the couple’s house, there was nothing he could do.

“We couldn’t get them out,” Wells said.

April Johnson, a mother of five, was killed while working as a cashier at a town discount store. The storm destroys the business.

Dianne Berry, April’s mother’s cousin, said: ‘She was a hard worker, lovely and willing to help people. “She always had a smile on her face.”

Berry said April’s son plays football and she is always happy to drive other kids to games and training sessions. “She would fix them up with little bags of snacks,” says Berry.

Shaquana Stubbs’ brother, Daryl Purvis, also died in the Rolling Fork.

“He was a very nice guy,” Stubbs said of Daryl, who works in landscaping. “He’s the soul of the party. He’ll do anything to make you laugh, and everyone who knows him loves him. You can’t help but love him.”

In addition to the heavy death toll, the same storm system injured dozens and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings in the four days it hit the South from Texas to the Carolinas.

In the Mississippi neighborhood where Pierce’s family was killed, it’s hard to believe that anyone is still alive. Cockrell and his wife, Mary Cockrell, took shelter in the central hallway of the house when the tornado hit. Their home was destroyed, and they lost almost everything but their lives.

“It was like a war zone,” said Mary Cockrell. “Everything was torn to pieces.”


AP reporter Emily Wagster Pettus contributed to this story from Jackson, Mississippi.

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