April 27, 2011, and the months that followed were like a whirlwind for Halstead “Hal” Green and his family.
They lost their Harvest home to the tornado. They spent several months in a rental house in Huntsville while looking for a permanent place to live and finally bought a home in Madison. But the lessons learned from this natural disaster will stay with the family forever.
“There is no doubt in my mind we have been blessed beyond our understanding,” Green, director for services optimization for the Army Materiel Command, said.
“If I had to say lessons learned, it’s that: First, never lose faith in your Lord. Never doubt his will or his capability. Never doubt what he can do. The Lord will take care of you.
“Number two, be good to people you pass along the way because you’ll never know how those same people can influence you later on. Be good because that’s how you need to be as a person.
“And the third thing is cherish and take care of your family. Because when all is said and done, you can’t depend on anybody else. Family is really all you have.”
Early the morning of April 27, 2011, he and his wife and children practiced their tornado drill because of the severe weather forecast that day. They went to work that morning at their respective jobs. His wife, Almeida, is now retired but was working then for the Space and Missile Defense Command. Green had just moved into the new AMC headquarters building on Martin Road.
There were multiple weather alerts throughout the workday and tornado sirens which sent employees to the basements of their office buildings. Green and his wife were finally able to drive home together about 2 p.m.
They were watching the weather reports on television in the kitchen of their three-story brick home at 115 Mustang Drive in the Anderson Hills subdivision. Besides Green and his wife there were oldest daughter Ericka, son Jay and granddaughter Sydney Ratcliff, then 4. Green’s other daughter, Stacey, was at work.
The family realized it was time to retreat to a bathroom at the back of the house when the television screen went red with a tornado warning and the weathercaster advised his own wife to go to a storm shelter. They saw about 10 consecutive lightning strikes. Through a window, Green saw two garbage cans get blown down his driveway.
About 8-10 seconds later, the lights went out. This was followed 8-10 seconds later with the booming sound of bricks hitting bricks. And then there was silence.
“It took roughly 20 seconds for our home to go from a warm inviting homey place to rubble,” Green, 62, originally from Staten Island, New York, said.
Their top two floors were gone. Half of the master bedroom on the first floor was gone. Their belongings and their furniture – which included international mementos collected in their travels in Europe and Asia – were gone. Of their five vehicles, three were destroyed and the two in the garage were damaged.
But most importantly, all five occupants of the destroyed home were uninjured. They only had the clothes on their backs but they still had each other.
Green, who retired from the Army as a major in 1995 after 19 years, said he and his family were in a daze the next several months – like returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. They moved into their Madison home in November 2011. It happened to be the very first house of maybe 150 prospective homes they looked at in their real estate search. They finally realized it had everything they wanted – first of all, a storm shelter.
“God has a plan for us,” Green said. “And sometimes we have no clue what that plan is. But if you follow along, ultimately you’ll end up where you need to be.”