By Melydia Clewell, Assignment Manager - bio | email
HIXSON, TN. (WRCB)-- It's been nearly a month since a day of deadly tornadoes shifted our landscape and rearranged hundreds of lives across the Tennessee Valley.
Among those touched, two families brought together by tragedy in a seemingly random twist of fate.
This story starts in Rainsville, Alabama, the night of April 27th. Corey Plunkett's wife and two young daughters were tucked safely in a relative's storm shelter. On the way home from work, Plunkett received a call from a friend who had just watched an EF-5 tornado tear through town, headed towards Plunkett's mobile home.
"It's crazy, man, you know. You come up and your whole life's gone in just a blink of an eye," Plunkett said as he stood in a field where nine trailers, including his own, once stood.
The Plunketts have nothing left. All their material possessions were thrown into a metal blender and tossed across the Tennessee Valley.
Seventy miles north, in Hixson, Tennessee, Charlie Thompson spent the day of the tornadoes with an eye towards the sky. Thompson grew up in the Midwest. He recognized the familiar outline of a funnel cloud as it came over Big Ridge, dropping debris like ticker tape.
"It looked like stuff from a trailer had just been blown to pieces," Thompson remembers. "And I looked down and there was a check stub. I picked it up and it said Rainsville, Alabama, and I said, 'Oh, man, I can't believe this.'"
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people found strange items in the days following April 27th. Family photographs, utility bills, scraps of wallpaper, those wicked winds had carried an incredible amount of debris. Most finders marveled for a moment over holding a stranger's document and then moved on.
Charlie Thompson says that was never an option for him. He felt driven to find the owner of the check stub that landed in his front yard. He sat down at his computer desk and searched until he found Corey Plunkett's profile on Facebook.
"I just lost it and I started crying at that moment," Plunkett says of the moment he read Thompson's first message. He responded, calling Charlie Thompson his guardian angel.
Charlie and his wife, Melissa, say a wave of elation washed over them when they learned Corey and his family survived the storm. The Thompsons understand loss all too well. A recent stroke put Melissa in a wheelchair. She lost her job. Charlie cares for her and their special needs daughter, Heather. They knew the Plunketts needed a hand.
So, the Thompsons went shopping. They loaded a cart with towels, toiletries, and toys. Then they filled three boxes, 70 pounds in all, and mailed them to Rainsville.
The Plunketts opened them, expecting to find that wayward check stub. It wasn't among the items the Thompsons had sent. Charlie Thompson wanted to hand deliver it. Eyewitness News was happy to help. We took the Thompson with us for the ride to Rainsville and were treated to an emotional meeting.
Both families say they hope this will be the first of many visits in what they intend to be a life-long friendship.