Tornado Blows Wedding Photo Across State Lines

May 31, 2011

An Alabama couple’s wedding photo from 1982 – blown 120 miles from their flattened house near Hackleburg, Ala., to Lincoln County, Tenn. and identified after publication in Tupelo, Miss. – is on its way back to them.

The family that found the picture in their yard asked The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal to publish it, figuring it had been blown there by the twisters that hit north Mississippi and Alabama on April 27.

The newspaper published it Tuesday. On Wednesday, a family friend called Mike and Frieda Evans’ daughter in Hamilton, Ala.; she confirmed the couple’s identity.

The photo was on the way to Hamilton, where the Evanses, their son and Mike Evans’ elderly mother are staying with the daughter, the newspaper reported Sunday.

Like other wedding portraits, it shows bride and groom flanked by family members and surrounded by flowers, candles and ribbons. But it took on greater significance four years after the wedding, when a fiery wreck hospitalized Frieda Evans for two months and killed her baby daughter, the sister shown beside her in the wedding photograph, and her sister’s 3-year-old son.

Her car exploded when a diesel truck slammed into the rear; 85 percent of her body was burned.

When the tornado hit her house, she was in Tennessee, visiting her sister’s older son, Chad Nichols – the ring-bearer in the wedding photo.

Her husband, 17-year-old son and mother-in-law were at home. They thought the tornado might avoid their property. But at the last moment it turned and barreled right toward them.

Mike Evans said they all ran for the basement just as windows began exploding. They got there just in time. The twister ripped out their doors and sucked out furniture and other possessions.

“About 75 percent of the town is gone,” Freida Evans said. But, she said, her house wasn’t hit by the 3:48 p.m. tornado that leveled much of Hackleburg. “We were hit at 4:15 p.m., so they think it might have been the storm that had hit Smithville” about a half hour earlier that day.

Since then, strangers have returned bits and pieces of their lives. Freida Evans received a package of her possessions found in Athens, Ala., and another one from Elkmont, Ala.

But one special picture stayed put. A hand-painted portrait of Ashton, the baby killed in the wreck, remained on the living room’s crushed wall, protected from the collapsed ceiling by an antique dresser sitting nearby.

The portrait wasn’t even scratched.

“When we go through trials, it makes us stronger,” Freida Evans said. “I am survivor. I had depended on my faith and church family to get us through after the accident, and that’s what we’ll do now. We’ll be able to build back.”

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