Despite our best intentions and careful planning, things don’t always go the way we want them to. Sometimes we experience terrible tragedies that seem to have no clear explanation and happen for no reason.
When Hurricane Michael began crashing into Florida, no one knew how quickly it would become violent. But since its landfall on Wednesday, many have discovered just how much destruction was possible.
Six lives have been lost to the storm, one of them an 11-year-old girl who’d barely begun to live her life. Sarah Radney, one of six children in her family, was killed in what her father, Roy Radney, later referred to as a “freak accident.”
“They were supposed to come home this morning,” Roy Radney told The New York Times in an article that was published on Oct. 11. “But that was before we knew Michael was going to be as bad as it was.”
On break from school, Sarah and at least one brother were visiting their grandparents in Georgia. They’d seen the hurricane warnings, but were sure they’d be fine.
Roy’s father assured him that his home was built to last through winds up to 150 mph. Roy was still concerned, though, as any parent would be.
As the hurricane hit them, they sent him photos of downed trees. He called regularly to check in, and everything seemed to be okay, until the tone of one call changed. His brother called him to tell him that Sarah had been injured.
Roy couldn’t tell how bad the injury was, but his brother was crying on the phone.
“When I finally got through and spoke to my mom,” Roy said, “my mom said Sarah had been hit in the head.”
Apparently part of a carport had crashed through the roof or a window and hit the girl in the head. The same beam punctured the grandmother’s lung. They were both suffering and stuck, unreachable, and Roy couldn’t get to them.
“Last night was just hell. I’m an hour and a quarter away, and my daughter’s dying, and I can’t do anything about it,” Roy said. “I can’t think of anything that is more related to hell than that.”
Because of the state the hurricane left the area in, the grandma had to wait over six hours just to be able to get out, and then had to walk to get help, all with a broken rib and punctured lung. Sarah passed away within an hour after the accident.
Not only do the adults involved in this tragedy have to process what happened, Sarah’s 12-year-old brother witnessed the accident. He had both the blessing and the curse of being there for her last moments.
“I’ve worked most of my adult life out of town,” Roy said, according to CNN. “I would always get videos of her singing and dancing while I was on the road. She brightened my world. She was 11 years old and liked to play like she was 5.”
“She loved God, she was Christian,” he added, mentioning that she’d catch a ride with other relatives when her parents couldn’t make it. “When the doors to the church were open she would want to be there.”
Now, Roy has a message for anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation, with a dangerous storm bearing down on them.
“I want people to know, man, when they say, ‘Get out of your house’ — leave your house, listen to them,” the grieving father said. “When they say, ‘No first responder is going to be able to get to you’ — they’re not joking.”
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