‘They know this is their house’
By Teresa K. Weaver
Thomas and Samantha Short counted themselves among the lucky ones after a monster tornado hit their hometown. They survived, and the damage to their apartment didn’t appear to be too extensive.
They put a tarp on the damaged roof and moved back in.
“There it was”
But about a month later, their daughter Morgan — only 2 months old at the time — woke up screaming, with her eyes swollen shut. They rushed her to the hospital, where doctors suspected allergies and prescribed ointment.
A week later, the baby’s eyes were still swollen, and the couple’s other children had started suffering from breathing problems and irritated eyes. Frustrated and anxious, Samantha started moving furniture in order to give the children’s bedroom a floor-to-ceiling scrubbing.
“I moved the bookshelf, and there it was,” she said. “Thick, nasty green and black mold growing out of the air conditioning vent.”
The landlord showed little interest in fixing the roof or eliminating the potentially deadly mold, so the Shorts moved into a cramped FEMA trailer near the airport.
“The kids were all cooped up, because there were some not-so-nice people who lived around us,” Samantha said. “They couldn’t play outside. Thomas and I started to argue, and the kids started acting out. Our son would throw kicking, screaming fits, which he never did before. It was a horrible living situation.
“And then we found a flier about Habitat on our door.”
A healthy home to grow
Now, the growing family — Samantha is expecting their fifth child in May — is living in a four-bedroom house built in partnership with Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity. The kids have a yard to play in, and Thomas even has room to grow strawberries, carrots and peas in a small garden out back.
The kids — Gavin, 5; Chloe, 3; Makenna, 2; and Morgan, 1 — are healthy.
“They’re too young to understand the concept of owning something,” Samantha said. “But they know this is their house.”
Return to the series home page:
Tornadoes and flooding in the central U.S.