April 8, 2003
MOUNT VERNON – Larry Hawkins now knows how the Apostle John may have felt almost 2,000 years ago when he heard the words, "Come up hither …"
John, the Bible says, was on the Isle of Patmos when he heard the command.
Hawkins says he was crouched in a hallway at his home near Mount Vernon, clinging tightly to his wife, Marge.
|Picking through the aftermath of the tornado that hit the Hawkins home.|
A member of First Baptist, Mount Vernon, Hawkins didn’t hear a voice. What he did hear was a roar that sounded like a train. The next thing he knew, he had been "caught up!"
"We were living in a modular home," Hawkins explains. "It was mounted on a foundation. The tornado landed about a mile behind me. It took out a place there and then took out another place behind me. Then it got me."
The nightmare began unfolding for Hawkins a little before 11:30 p.m. in December 2002.
"My wife and I were holding on to each other in the middle of the house. We were the only ones in the house. Our son, Mike, was visiting his girlfriend in Mount Vernon," Hawkins remembers.
"I remember my wife saying to me, ‘Honey, I’m scared.’ I told her she didn’t need to be scared because I’m here to protect you and to take care of you.
"The next thing I knew, I was almost a mile away."
What happened the next several minutes probably would qualify for Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
"I was in the air when I came to," Hawkins said. "I was up there flying around looking for Marge. She only made it about 300 feet before she was thrown to the ground. The tornado mutilated her.
"Even as dark as it was, I could see a lot of junk flying around. A lot it was hitting me. It was banging me up pretty good. God was really riding with me on that one."
Hawkins said he did a lot of praying while riding in the tornado. "I remember yelling, ‘What do I do now, God. I’m still in here. Please help me.’"
Without any warning, the tornado suddenly threw Hawkins to the ground.
"I hit the ground pretty hard, but I never did lose consciousness," he said. "I got up and tried to get my bearings, but I couldn’t see out of my right eye. My eye and right ear were packed with mud. And something had hit me in the back of the head. I had a pretty big gash. It took a whole bunch of stitches and 10 staples."
Hawkins began walking in the direction he thought was home.
"I could see up across the pasture, but nothing was standing," he said. "I was wandering around and hollering for Marge, That’s when two cars pulled up and used their cell phones to call for ambulances," Hawkins explained.
None were available because they had been dispatched to Lucky Lady Trailer Park. The park, located about a mile from Hawkins’ house, had been demolished by the tornado.
"The people in the cars helped me up and tried to clean me up. They drove me to the trailer park where they put me on an IV and later took me to a hospital at Springfield."
Hawkins also suffered a "sliced liver" during the ordeal. He said experts have estimated he was traveling at least 160 miles per hour while caught in the tornado winds. "Something must have hit me pretty good while I was up in the air," Hawkins said.
Although he can’t explain why his wife was taken, Hawkins entertains no bitterness toward God.
"I’ve gained strength from all of this in knowing the Lord is my Savior," Hawkins said. "Without that hope I wouldn’t have made it to where I am right now. I can’t explain it, but this peace of mind that I have has given me a very positive attitude – even in the loss of my wife."
Hawkins had been married 13 years. He said he met Marge at a teen-sponsored supper at a Baptist church in Webster County.
Hawkins is now combining his musical talents with his testimony. He is now averaging more than 30 appearances per month in churches.
It wouldn’t be truthful, Hawkins says, to say that he hasn’t asked questions.
"I have wondered how things like this could happen and I would still have the strength to go on," he said. "Instead of saying, ‘Why me, Lord. What have I ever done?’ I say thank you God for the peace I have in my mind now and the pleasures I will gain later on knowing that you are there for me," Hawkins explained.
The tornado wasn’t the first close call for Hawkins.
On June 23, 1997, he suffered a heart attack. By the time medics arrived, his heart had stopped beating and there was no blood pressure. Medics were shocked as he was sitting up talking to them when they arrived.
Two years ago, he suffered congestive heart failure. His lungs filled with fluid,
He lived again.
"I want people to know that God must really love me," Hawkins said. "I think He must have given me nine lives like a cat. The only thing I’m asking Him is to make the next six a little easier."