FORT MILL TOWNSHIP -- Despite the tree falling on his home, Howard Mullinax says God was watching out for his family during a heavy thunderstorm the afternoon of Sunday, July 6.
His grandson Jeffery was in the living room watching the rain and wind through a window just seconds before a 100-foot tall white oak tree crashed through the ceiling, cutting the mobile home in half and driving Mullinax's refrigerator through the floor. Mullinax and his wife Shirley were taking a nap at the time. Somehow, nobody was hurt.
"Thirty seconds before the tree fell he was looking out the window," Mullinax said. "I heard the metal crinkling and saw the roof opened up, and I started calling out for Jeffery."
His grandson answered that he was OK, and the family cleared out of the home to wait out the storm in Mullinax's father's house on the same property.
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"It was weirder than any storm I've ever heard," he added.
Mullinax and his wife are staying with his sister in Rock Hill, and Jeffery is staying with other relatives. Their personal belongings, what was left of them, are in a trailer they rented until a new permanent home is built.
They lost many things in the storm, years' worth of collectibles, antiques, even family heirlooms that belonged to Shirley's mother are all gone, crushed or soaked beyond salvation. The one thing they didn't lose was each other.
"I'm not worried about the material stuff," Mullinax said. "I'm just glad the good Lord took care of my family in that hour."
In the days since the storm, family and friends have pitched to help. Mullinax's brother and son helped him cut the tree into sections and pull it off the home so they could retrieve the few belongings left. His father, who has Alzheimer's, is staying with another family member because now there is no one close by to care for him. His pastor Bill Fergusson with Gateway International Church brought him some money to help cover expenses.
"I've never been totally in turmoil and devastated before," he said. "It gets you to where you don't even want to eat."
Mullinax, a truck driver for the past 30 years, owns some land outside the township, and he said that's where he'll probably end up. He's waiting for things to settle down some and for the insurance check to come through before he puts a mobile home on that land.
"I hate to leave Fort Mill, it's been my home my whole life," Mullinax said. "My dad's been here since 1959."
But he doesn't have much of a choice at the moment.
"I know things will get brighter and better," he said.