Stories of Survival: Brookville couple feels ‘lucky’

Mike and Loni Roberts feel like they’re two of Brookville’s luckiest residents after a tornado demolished a swath of the city Monday.

Although their cars are trapped beneath a pile of wood and siding that used to be their garage, their home was damaged, but left standing.

“My neighbor called and goes: ‘Are you guys OK because your garage is gone…I was just like ‘oh my lord,’” Mike said. “We were pretty lucky in this whole thing…the garage is just a garage. It can be replaced.”

The Roberts, who both work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,were asleep in bed as the tornado approached.

The couple heard their dogs begin to bark and a floor-to-ceiling window in their family room shattered.

They could hear and feel the wind blowing into their home, prompting them to jump out of bed.

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Loni woke her son to get him to the basement and together the family tried to get their dogs downstairs.

“It was just this feeling or sound. We both flew out of bed,” Loni said. “It was just the weirdest feeling…I’m running and trying to get my dogs and yelling for my son and the wind is blowing inside the house.”

The Roberts were only in their basement for about 20 minutes but it felt much longer, they said.

They emerged to find nearly all of the houses on their street damaged or destroyed, including one owned by a family who had just moved in a few months earlier.

Homes on Charlie Court, where the Roberts live, along with the Terrace Park neighborhood were the two hardest hit areas of Brookville, said City Manager Sonja Keaton. The two neighborhoods surround the high school, which had its roof ripped off and front doors blown in.

Following the storm, Brookville Police enacted a curfew running from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the Roberts’ neighborhood along with Terrace Park and the high school campus.

It’s “been crazy” getting the clean-up effort going but Keaton said that she’s starting to see the “light at the end.”

Seeing all the residents come out after the storm to offer them water, food and help was heartwarming, the Roberts said.

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Though it’s been days since the tornadoes hit, Mike and Loni are still a little on edge, which is a normal feeling to have after a life-threatening experience, said Jeremy Schumm, an associate professor of psychology at Wright State University.

It’s common, Schumm said, for people to be jumpy or have nightmares for awhile after a tornado. Anyone who still has symptoms after several weeks may need to seek treatment.

“For most people, you’re going to have these reactions initially and normally those things do go away on their own,” Schumm said.

The tornadoes were followed by more storms throughout the week, something that kept Mike and Loni on their toes. With their electricity out, they used a generator to power a fan in their bedroom.

One night, Mike thought he heard another tornado siren going off. But, it turned out just to be an odd noise coming from the fan.

“I’m sure we’re going to be a little more paranoid now,” Mike said. “I’m sure everyone is when you go through one.”

This story is part of a special project, Stories of Survival, focusing on the people of the Miami Valley who survived the Memorial Day tornadoes and are staying strong as the region moves ahead. You can read other stories of survival from around the region here.

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