Henryville woman loses husband, home in tornado

Wayne and Lenora Hunter

A tornado survivor is sharing her emotional story with Eyewitness News of the moment she lost her home and her husband.

62-year-old Wayne Hunter, a retired ER nurse, died in the March 2nd Henryville tornadoes.

The last words he said were "I love you" to his wife, Lenora.

Before the tornado hit, the couple watched the funnel cloud form through the window of their Henryville home.

In fact, always fascinated by storms, Lenora and Wayne Hunter captured its approach on camera.

"Man, that's a big one too. That's a huge one," Wayne described in the video.

"Listen to it!" Lenora said, as the storm roared closer.

But excitement about seeing a tornado soon turned to fear.

They didn't know it yet, but that EF4 tornado would prove destructive and deadly.

"When it got real close, that's when we realized it wasn't going to go around us," Lenora told Eyewitness News reporter Jennie Runevitch.

On the home video, with weather reports on television in the background, Lenora said, "It's coming right toward Henryville! Should we warn them?"

"I know. It won't move," Wayne replied.

"It's coming here. Oh my God. It's picking up. It's picking stuff up! Look you can see it rotate," Lenora said.

"It looks like it's heading right toward us," Wayne observed.

"Maybe we should get away from the window? C'mon Wayne, we gotta go," Lenora said as the camera cut off.

The Hunters, married 41 years, went to the safe spot of their home, a windowless hallway where they'd practiced sheltering with their family.

Lenora explained they huddled together, covered up in a blanket and shared what would be their final words to each other.

"We went to the middle of the house and told each other we loved…told each other that we loved each other and we were holding onto each other and then we immediately at the same time said, 'my ears are popping' and then…that was it. You felt the force," she said.

Lenora blacked out and the next thing she knew, she was outside, with the house on top of her.

She was in pain and screaming for help.

"Then I had neighbors come and save us, well save me, and I remember seeing Wayne laying there and I said, 'how about him?' and he said, 'no ma'am,' that he didn't make it."

Her beloved husband was gone, lying next to Lenora, underneath a refrigerator.

Their home, their life was destroyed in seconds.

"He was almost 63 but he was young and for me to think when I was 59 years old I was gonna be called a widow, never would have dreamed it," Lenora said tearfully. "We were holding each other and that's what's so hard now. Whenever I'd be sad or anything, he always held me and sometimes we wouldn't say anything it was just you knew. You just knew and I won't have that anymore."

Lenora now wears Wayne's wedding ring on her finger.

It's a symbol of the love they shared and the bravery he showed in protecting her during the tornado.

It's also one of the few mementos saved in the storm.

That, she says, is almost the hardest part.

"Most widows have something they can hold onto or smell and I don't even have that because everything that we did save had to be washed because of insulation or debris. I don't have anything. Absolutely nothing that was his that can smell like him or I can hold onto," she said.

Lenora is holding onto the land where her home once stood.

She plans to rebuild the house there and plans to include a basement or storm shelter.

Even in her grief, she's sharing a lesson for others about love and family.

"Cherish them. Love them. Make sure you give 'em a hug. Make sure you tell them that you love them. That's one thing we did."

Lenora and Wayne Hunter did, right until the end.