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Storm sends tree crashing into house

Donna Owens used to live in a single-story house at 1479 Clancy St. in South Memphis – before the “miracle.”  Donna Owens used to live in a single-story house at 1479 Clancy St. in South Memphis – before the “miracle.” She’d been there for five years before the tree – a really big one – shook loose from its roots during Monday’s devastating storm and smashed the place.

Donna Owens is dwarfed by the tree that destroyed the house where she lived after it was uprooted in Monday’s storm. The storm led to the death of an 87-year-old man who was electrocuted by a live power line that was knocked down. More than 71,000 MLGW customers lost power.  (Photos by Mark Stansbury.)

Donna Owens parked her car across the street the day before the storm and that decision kept it from being destroyed along with her house, she said.

Owens works across the street at The Works, Inc., a non-profit CDC that is part of St. Andrew AME Church. She left home right at 9 a.m., as usual.

At work, Owens’ office is upstairs. Her boss – Curtis Thomas, the deputy executive director of The Works, Inc., has an office across the hall. He was talking to her via an instant message program when he looked out of his office window and saw one of the transformers on a pole spark. Suddenly, it was pitch dark.

Thomas ushered Owens downstairs where they were greeted by a banging on the door.

“My neighbor, my neighbor, is she here?” one of Owen’s neighbors asked Thomas, who said, yes, she was there. That’s when Owens learned a tree had fallen on her house.

Owens ventured outside and for the next hour and half, “I was totally hysterical,” she said.

Rain was pouring down and the Fire Department had responded to the call for help.

“It was a devastating thing because the tree was totally uprooted and it fell straight down on the house,” said Owens. “It split it in half. The tree was so large it covered the whole street. They had to come and cut some of the branches off. I was just so absolutely blessed.”

The firefighters asked if anyone was in the house. “I said I live by myself, no pets, no fish, no nothing.”

Owens said after seeing the tree, she shouted for joy and praised God.

“I hadn’t too long left the house,” she said. “I am totally convinced that God is taking care of me because I could have been in there. Had it have been earlier, I would have been in there. He saved me. Everybody says it’s a miracle and I truly believe that.”

For now, Owens is staying with a church member and uncertain of the future, allowing that she might have an opportunity to move into another of the CDC’s rehabbed houses.

Her pastor, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth S. Robinson, told her that God clearly had protected her and had something in store for her.

Soon after, Owens said she took another look at the destroyed house and said, “OK, God, Do what you do because I am done.”

In a strange twist, Owens had left her car parked in the church lot on Sunday, rather than parking in her driveway as is her routine.

“Had I parked it in my driveway, I would not have driven it to work on Monday because all of my clients were coming into the office,” said Owens. “It would have been in the driveway when the tree fell. I would have lost my house and my car.”

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