But on April 27, their world turned upside down — both figuratively and literally.
The couple was in their mobile home, with Gerri’s daughter, on Bent Oak Trail, watching the storm coverage on television. Dan remembered getting a phone call from another relative around 8:43 p.m. saying a tornado had just touched down in Ooltewah.
“I said ‘uh oh’ and about the time I said that and hung up the phone, it was there,” he remembered. “It landed on us like a ton of bricks … came right down on top of us.”
Gerri, who was “hanging on to the sofa with her daughter for dear life,” said, “if Dan had been where he normally sat, he would have been sucked out of the trailer.
“He would have been gone,” she said.
The damage at their mobile home was intense. The trailer had pressurized during the storm, and had blown out the side of the structure. Dan estimates about 35 feet of wall was ripped from the side of the 42-foot long mobile home.
Dan said the Bradley County Building inspector checked the home, and condemned it, but FEMA thought it repairable.
Family members had actually tried to put the wall back into place to protect things within the trailer, and that was the time FEMA checked the mobile home and made their ruling.
“The home was brought to our attention through our case management process, and with the electrical system being affected and the walls affected, we felt it needed to be replaced and brought it before the Stakeholders Committee,” said Long-Term Recovery Organization Disaster Director Jim Polier.
“The committee felt it should be one of our building projects, so we then approached one of our partners — the Bradley Baptist Association — and made plans for a home to be built at that site.”
The LTRO works with several partners in the building projects. Two building projects, one of which will be complete within the next two weeks, are being done by Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland through LTRO funding.
Charles Bagley is the case manager who has been working with Dan and Gerri, and has been discussing the couple’s needs with LTRO officials.
“ They could not go back into that mobile home … it wasn’t livable, so I am glad that we are helping them with this new home,” Bagley said.
“Part of my job then is to also make sure that this house meets their needs, and one of the first things I noted was that they need a larger shower.”
Dan and Gerri both utilize canes to move around, and Dan said they also have “those four-wheel backups when we need them,” referring to wheelchairs the two have ready for use.
“We needed to adapt the house plans not only for the larger shower, but for a ramp in the front and an exit ramp in the back,” Polier said.
“We were able to take a three-bedroom house plan and adapt it to a two-bedroom house plan that includes the shower and the ramps, which will help them out tremendously.”
Polier said tthere are hopes the home would be finished by February, but all is dependent on the winter weather.
“We do plan on having a groundbreaking soon, but that too is when the weather cooperates,” he noted.
Dan and Gerri say they can stay with their grandchildren as long as it takes for the home to be completed, but are itching to get back to their property on Bent Oak Trail.
“It’s home … it’s the only home that we’ve ever known together,” Dan said.