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Tornado survivors recount terrifying storm

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 5/18/2014 10:54 pm
LEE COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) - Sometimes, we're struck with nightmares, and Judy Harmon lives one every day.

"Every day, I think about it," Harmon said of April's tornado that ripped through Lee County. "Every day, I see it. Every day, I hear it."

Harmon, her 16-year-old daughter and seven others took refuge in Scruggs Auto Body Shop on County Road 811, which is constructed of steel beams and tin siding.

"The whole time it was going on, I was just screaming at the top of my lungs, 'Lord, please Jesus God, please stop,'" Harmon explained. "'Please Lord, of all mercy, please stop.'"

But for several minutes, it didn't stop. Her fiancee's business took a beating.  It's one so severe, it'll take years to bounce back.

"The whole thing didn't last but 60 seconds," auto body shop owner Tommy Scruggs explained.

It's what happened in those 60 seconds that's truly stunning. Each of the nine has a remarkable story of survival.

Scruggs' story is probably the scariest.

"By far, this is the worst thing that's ever happened to me," he said. "I've been through hurricanes, floods, even car wrecks. This is the worst."

The force of the twister sucked Scruggs up in the air for what he said felt like 30 seconds.

"I was 24 feet in the air and slammed against the ceiling," he added.

He tried holding on to the rafters. He tried ducking from debris, but he couldn't manage to shield himself.

"I ended up under a wall, and I couldn't remove myself," he said. "The others had to rescue me."

Scruggs now has a broken pelvis, a broken tailbone and two broken ribs.

Keenan Watkins is a customer who was there the day of the tornado to check the progress of his motorcycle restoration.

"Basically, once the walls collapsed in, I was out," Watkins said. "I didn't notice anything after that."

Several walls caved in on him, knocking him out. It left him with a broken nasal cavity, eye socket, cheekbone and foot.

"It's been a lot of recovery since then," he said.

Five of the nine were treated at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo for injuries.

Fortunately for Harmon, she's not physically hurt, but the storm took an emotional toll.

She's the only one that witnessed everything. Not once did she black out. Not once did she close her eyes.

She now lives with those images.

"When I close my eyes for any length of time, I can still hear the noise," she added. "I can still hear the debris flying around the room."

The group faces a long road to recovery, but Harmon said the terrifying experience has strangely formed a bond and tied them together forever.

"It's a long journey back, but I know we will make it back," she said. "We're just those kind of people that don't give up. I don't give up."
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