Braggadocio church members benefit from ‘miracle’
By Brian Koonce
April 18, 2006
BRAGGADOCIO – There never was really much to the tiny unincorporated community of Braggadocio — just a church building and a post office. After the April 2 tornadoes that killed five and destroyed nearly half the homes in nearby Caruthersville, there’s just a post office and church-shaped pile of rubble.
There would have been six more dead, were it not for the miraculous protection God granted those in Braggadocio Baptist Church’s evening worship service.
They knew the weather was turning nasty about halfway through the sermon. Church Trustee Russell Gilmore went to the back door of the church and peeked out at the sky, but he didn’t think the storm looked that severe.
“We decided to go to the Sunday School area and finish the service,” he said.
About five minutes later, they prayed and dismissed for the evening. A deacon, his wife and grandchildren and Gilmore and his wife stayed behind to clean up.
“We’ve all been through a few bad storms,” Gilmore said. “We thought, ‘Well, we’ll make it through this one.’ But we waited too long.”
As Gilmore turned off the sound system, he heard some one shout, “We can’t make it!”
The six ran back to the Sunday School area, thinking it was the most easterly point in an area where storms normally come out of the west. They fell to their knees, forming a huddle around an old pulpit.
“By the time we kneeled down, it was on us,” Gilmore recalled. “We could hear it. Glass started breaking and it wasn’t long before the door blew in. When it broke, dirt started flying-in, filling up our ears and getting in our hair.”
Gilmore estimates they were in the building ten minutes before they thought it was safe to get up and leave the building. When they stood up, the carpet was covered with several inches of dirt except for the perfectly clean silhouettes of where their bodies had been kneeling.
All the exits were blocked except for the front door of the church, where the tornado tore the corner away. They stumbled across overturned pews and eventually came out of the rugged whole torn in the brick façade. That was their first hint not just of how bad the storm had been, but also how miraculous their survival was.
Gilmore’s truck had been moved more than 150 feet from its parking spot and rolled across a concrete slab, the foundation of what had been the church’s multi-purpose building. Where the sheet metal walls, steal beams and furniture ended up is a mystery. They were not within site of the clean, smooth slab.
An annex on the other side of the main church building was all but destroyed as well, with only the walls left standing. The rear Sunday School area where they took shelter sustained the least damaged.
“It was just the grace of God,” Gilmore said. “Some heavy praying – that’s what got us through.”
Though the storm had passed, the road leading to the church was totally blocked by trees and downed power lines. Using his cell phone, Gilmore called his son, who weathered the storm in his home four miles away, and he drove through the fields to avoid the trees to get to the church. Once home, he and his wife got on their four-wheelers and began combing the community, checking on their friends and neighbors.
They soon learned that one member of Braggadocio Baptist Church did not survive the storm. Ninety-three-year-old Elizabeth Crain, a member of the church longer than anyone can remember was in her home with two of her sons less than a mile from the church. All three were blown out of the house an