At the height of the storm Friday, elderly residents at Monette Manor were quickly moved to shelter. Golden Hembry, a Korean war veteran and COVID-19 survivor, was in a hallway when the roof caved in.
“He’d talk a little bit about his service, but not much,” said his brother Jimmie Hembry. “He wouldn’t talk about it unless you would just bring it up.”
Jimmie Hembry, 82, said he raced to the nursing home through swirling debris before finding out his brother did not survive the storm.
“He come back and he said, ’Golden didn’t make it,'” said his nephew Michael Hembrey. “We said ‘What?’ He said it again … and he went to crying.”
On Sunday, the nursing home was surrounded by workers cleaning up, many of them volunteers. Some said they’re wondering how anyone survived.
“Wheelchairs out in the street, in the road, in the ditch … It hurts to see the nursing home like that,” said volunteer Matthew Benavides. “It’s painful to watch something like that.”
Only five people were injured at the nursing home. Staff used their own bodies as human shields Friday night to protect residents from the deadly tornado.
By Sunday evening, some displaced residents were back with their families. Others had been moved to other nursing homes in the area.
The co-owner of the Monette Manor nursing home is now talking about how to rebuild.
“It’s been a part of the community for many, many, many years, and we can’t even think about it not being,”
said Rick Sampson.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency for the area.
“Probably the most remarkable thing is there’s not a greater loss of life,” Hutchinson said.
The other fatality in the state occurred inside a Dollar Store in Leachville.