Tornado victim hopes loss serves as lesson
An Indiana mother who had her young son ripped from her arms during this spring's deadly tornadoes has an emotional message for every parent.
"I could see it knocking down trees, but the big one, it's not spinning, it's more like a cloud, a slow-moving cloud you just don't think it's as powerful as it is," said Amanda Jackson.
Jackson knew to get out of the storm's path, so she pulled up to her grandfather's farmhouse and rushed two of her children - 10-year-old Lizzie and four-year-old Daylynn - into the bathroom, covering them next to her grandparents.
"You feel the dirt hit your face and your eyes and the sound, it deafens you," said Jackson of the moment the twister bore down on top of the house.
In what felt like seconds, she was face down in the field. Her grandparents lie behind her, dead. Then she heard Lizzie's muffled voice, yelling for her to get up.
"I looked at her and said, 'I can't find Daylynn' and we started to scream," Jackson said.
When she stood up, everything was gone, her arm broken from struggling to hold onto her little boy.
"I think in my heart I knew he was gone. I knew it. I don't know what you call it, but I just knew he was gone. I felt it," Jackson said.
It would take volunteer firefighters several hours to find Daylynn's body, which had been thrown several hundred feet from where the house once stood.
Amazingly, Lizzie had only broken her foot, doctors say because she curled into a ball like they taught her at school. But Amanda was bruised and broken from head to toe, landing her in the intensive care unit following surgery. Her deepest scars reside on the inside.
It's been more than two months since that tragic Friday afternoon, but still going on without her only son at times is seemingly impossible. A particularly challenging day came May 19. That would have been Daylynn's 5th birthday.
They marked the day graveside, something no parent ever wants to imagine.
"We had a balloon release and we blew bubbles for him and did silly string. He loved silly string and I never let him have it, and we decorated his new tombstone," said Jackson.
She said she gets peace now, knowing "that they're all together."
Jackson lives on for her three surviving girls, determined to ensure they never forget Daylynn, especially two-year-old Raylynn.
"She asks about him all the time. She knows he is upstairs and he is sleeping," said Jackson.
She's sharing her story now to warn other parents to take weather seriously and to take cover immediately before it hits.
"Something like that, you just don't think it's going to happen. You think you do everything right and I tried and that's the worst part," said Jackson.
Jackson's own home and car were also destroyed in the tornado. She is now staying with friends as she continues to recover from her physical injuries. When asked if she wants to move away from Chelsea, she simply replied "no."
"This has always been my home and always will be. This is where I feel close to my boy," said Jackson.