Betty and Jerry Morris were selected as recipients of a “Disaster Guy” build as part of A&E’s “The Big Fix” programing. The network unveiled the Morris home on the latest episode of the show Saturday.
Betty Morris said one of the things that meant the most to her was the prominence of black-and-white copies of salvaged photos in the front room of the new home.
Volunteers and the “Disaster Guy” team found them in the ruins of the home. Betty said these pictures reassured her the new house would feel like home.
“We have a large family. Ours is the gathering place for holidays,” she said.
This Thanksgiving, the family hopes to continue this tradition by celebrating their first festive holiday in the new house.
The process of agreeing to be on the show is a bit of a blur for the Morrises.
“His (Jerry’s) injury was fairly severe, and we were in a state of shock. So, it’s hard to remember a lot of details,” Betty said.
She had been at their daughter’s house when the tornadoes hit, but her husband was in the house.
Jerry cannot remember exactly how he got out from the debris of the house. He said he vaguely remembers walking through the neighborhood.
The show made contact with the family within a week of the April 27 tornadoes.
At first the family was reluctant to participate in the show. Jerry said he was uncomfortable with the idea of having anyone give him a house.
Betty said the independent spirit of her and her husband made it difficult at first to accept the generosity of the show and volunteers.
After they found out the show used insurance money from the demolished structure to built the new house, they saw it as a way to get into a house faster.
Betty said their physical and emotional state at the time also played a part in the decision.
“I don’t think we had it in us to plan another house at that point,” she said.
The Morrises have owned their property on Bates Pointe for 25 years and constructed the first house on the property themselves. Betty said they built the house a little at a time as they got the money.
“It took us seven years to complete,” she said.
“It was a weekend, holiday, vacation project with family and friends,” Jerry said.
This — and their love of the location — made Jerry and Betty Morris determined to continue to live on the land.
“We knew we wanted to get the pieces back together in the same place,” Betty said.
The couple signed a contract with A&E which included an agreement not to try to see the house before it was completed. However, family members were on-site throughout the build, according to Jerry.
His wife said she thinks their participation helped the house feel more like home. It also limited the details they could give before the show aired. Though the final product was a surprise, the floor plan was chosen by the couple.
“It’s a lot different than what we had,” Betty Morris said.
The style and interior may be different, but the new house is built in the exact same part of the Morris’s several acre property as the house destroyed by the storms.
“I came first and walked up the hill, saw all the destruction — the house down ... and I thought ‘This is home. We love this place, we will rebuild,’” Betty said.
Jerry said he had wanted to get to the house after the storms, but his injuries kept him from being able to get to the property until three days after the disaster.
“They kept fussing that I didn’t need to come down here then,” he said.
“I knew there were a lot of volunteers down here. They said, ‘Well, you can’t do anything while your down there.’ I said, ‘Yes. I can. I can at least say ‘thank you’ to some of these people.’”
Volunteers from multiple local organizations, civic clubs and churches, as well as students from local schools, were at the house even before the network showed up.