COTTONDALE, Ala. (AP) – When the April 27, 2011, tornado hit Holt, Alshakenya Hughes ran to her home’s bathroom for safety along with her then 1-year-old daughter, her boyfriend and their 7-week old son, Kaiden.
But it was too little, too late. The massive EF4 tornado ripped apart the family’s mobile home. When Hughes woke up, she was on her back in the middle of a debris field, seeing nothing but sky and flying objects, she said.
“It looked like Armageddon, with particles still floating,” Hughes said. “You looked all around and the only way we could tell where we were was because Soma Church was still standing.”
Her daughter, who had been in her arms, was also unhurt, still in the bathtub. But her 7-week old son had been hit by debris. It was apparent he needed to get to a hospital, Hughes said. With the help of a police officer, Hughes was able to get her son to DCH Regional Medical Center. He was airlifted to Children’s of Alabama, a hospital in Birmingham, soon after. He died the next day.
Two years after that storm, Hayes once again found herself at DCH, but this time for a much different reason: She gave birth to twins, a daughter and a son. They were born on April 27, 2013, exactly two years after the tornado.
“When I thought about the date when the twins were born, it put chills on me,” said their grandmother, Jeannette Hughes. “They are a blessing. It shows me that God is good.”
The twins will never be a replacement for their brother, but their mother said she does think their birth date is a sign from God.
“It’s almost like God took one child from me but then gave me two,” Alshakenya Hughes said.
The twins, Jimmy Jr. and JaMya, are now almost 7 weeks old, the age their older brother was when he died. Their two older siblings, Jamari, age 6, and Lanyja, age 3, are proud of their new siblings.
“The two of them are very excited to have a little brother and a little sister,” Alshakenya Hughes said.
The last two years went by quickly, but it hasn’t been easy, Alshakenya Hughes said.
Lanyja, who survived the tornado in the family’s bathtub, doesn’t remember much from the storm because she was so young, Hughes said. But the family moved to their grandmother’s mobile home in Cottondale two months ago, where there are train tracks nearby. Lanyja “went crazy” whenever she would hear a train – a similar sound that she heard during the April 27, 2011, tornado, her mom said. But she doesn’t react like that much now that the family has been there a while, Hughes said.
Although it’s been two years since the family lost its home, Alshakenya and her children have yet to find permanent housing. With the babies being newborns, she hasn’t been working full time, either. After the tornado, there is little affordable housing left, she said. But she said she hopes to find work soon, go back to school and find a permanent home.
“It’s still sort of unbelievable, you know,” Hughes said last week, cradling her newborn daughter in her arms, her newborn son napping nearby in a swing. “They are a blessing.”
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)