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‘It’s worse than I even thought’

By Bill Sanders

Lena Noyola is overcome with emotion as she surveys the wreckage of her home.  Photo by Ezra Millstein/Habitat for Humanity International

Lena squats on the slab of what was once her home, looking for salvageable items.  Photo by Ezra Millstein/Habitat for Humanity International

(May 22, 2013) — Lena Noyola took a few steps onto the cement that had been her home for two years and crumpled to her knees.

There were no walls, no roof, no structure — just a slab and some tile.

A significant number of houses in Noyola’s Rancho Brazos neighborhood sustained massive damage in the May 15, 2013, tornado. Some were destroyed. Noyola’s disappeared.

Many in this neighborhood were home when the tornado stuck, including Noyola’s sister, Alma Becerra, who lives with her. Noyola was on her way home, with her husband, Jose, and her three children: Miguel, 11, Julian, 7, and Christian, 5. As they turned into the subdivision, they saw people running out, bloody and screaming.

“I told my husband to run and find my sister,” she said. “Before he could get to the house, a neighbor drove up with Alma in the truck. She was badly hurt, and he had pulled her out of a heap.”

According to Noyola, her sister is getting better in a local hospital. Doctors had feared they would have to amputate her leg, she said, but that no longer seems likely.

That was one thing Noyola could be grateful for as she got her first look Saturday at the spot where her house once stood.

“You have to be very tough,” Noyola said. “I was very scared to come back here and see. And now it’s worse than I even thought. I never thought there would just be ground.

“I was hoping we’d have to repair. But look. There’s nothing to repair.”

They say Granbury is a close, tight-knit community. And even in the midst of so much gloom, that was easy to see.

Lena’s brother has a friend who had an empty house that was for sale. He is letting the Noyolas stay there until they figure out what to do next.

“That house was vacant when he let us in,” Noyola said. “We left for a while and came back, and there was a couch, a bed for me and Jose, beds for my three children, clothes for them and a refrigerator full of food.

“That was such a blessing.”