Tornado changed everything, but mother vows: ‘I have to be strong’

Angel Christmon saw the monster coming, and for her, it has not completely gone away.

Angel’s youngest son doesn’t have a tree to climb out front.

Her daughter’s best friend moved away.

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Angel sometimes catches her oldest boy looking out the back door of the brick Bromwick Drive house at the destruction the beast left behind in their neighborhood near Hara Arena.

“He tries to say, ‘Hey mom, it’s OK. We are still here. We are still together,’” Angel told me.

She knows the truth. Everything has changed.

The night it happened, Angel’s own mom warned her the beast was coming. Angel didn’t take it seriously — not completely, anyway. Her mom could be overprotective.

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With her husband, Charles, sheltered in the interior bathroom of the one-story Trotwood home with the kids — Caiden, 13, Olivia, 12, and Immanuel, 11 — Angel left the room to use the master bathroom.

“I saw the tornado out of the bathroom window right before it hit,” Angel said.

She raced back to her family. Her husband closed the bathroom door.

“Fifteen seconds later, it sounded like there was an earthquake,” the 36-year-old recalled.

Angel knows she was “lucky” when compared to many of their neighbors.

She and her husband had insurance, and Angel’s parents — the owners of the home that they intend to buy — had homeowner’s insurance.

More than $50,000 has been put toward fixing what the beast assaulted: three cars, the roof, a patio and a privacy fence.

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“We had all of our windows blown out,” Angel said.

The Christmons moved to the brick house from a double in Olde Town Trotwood three years ago.

Before the worst of the 15 Memorial Day tornadoes hit, Shiloh Gardens was a scenic, brick-home neighborhood with lots of trees and caring neighbors — many in their golden years.

“It was really exciting for us to have our own home and be able to purchase this home,” she said. “It felt like things were coming together. The family even got a dog, a miniature golden retriever mix named Glossy.

“It is a completely different neighborhood,” Angel says now.

Much work has been done. Much remains to be done. Many roofs are still covered in blue tarp. The worst-hit homes are completely open to the air.

The sound of workers using nail guns on roofs or playing rock music (Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” on the day I visited) fills the air.

Pieces of insulation and roofing materials still litter once-clean sidewalks, and signs for roofing companies and restoration companies are in almost every yard — some right next to neatly arranged Halloween decorations and pumpkins.

A piece of privacy fence is on the curb in front of the Christmons’ house. Stumps from that tree that their youngest loved to climb are in the lawn.

Angel said many of her neighbors have moved away. The once-active 81-year-old man who lives across the street had a heart attack after the storm. Angel hasn’t seen him since. Some neighbors have no option but to stay in dilapidated homes.

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Some, like her best friend — the father of her daughter’s bestie — chose to move on to other communities with better housing stock.

Breann Donlin, her mom and three kids — Tayan, 8, Takoah, 5, and Alara, 1 — are staying temporarily in a Bellbrook apartment.

Breann said her mom likely will return to the Bromwick Drive home they shared, but she and her kids may not.

“I am not quite sure. It (the Bellbrook street ) is a great neighborhood, but at the same time, I miss home,” she said. “I’ve learned to be present and cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Breann, who does not know Angel or her family, said the house her mom brought her home to 31 years ago is completely gutted.

Still, the Table 33 server and owner of the upcycle business the Wandering Closet says things have gotten better.

Breann’s older kids are settling into Bellbrook schools and making friends.

She’s having fewer panic attacks. Tayan no longer carries her stuffed animal, books and toys in a backpack out of fear they will be lost to another tornado.

“I feel like our situation made me look at my life and figure out what brings me joy and what doesn’t,” she said. “It is kind of easy to leave the crap behind.”

Angel’s family lived in a hotel for two weeks following the tornadoes, and then the kids moved in with Angel’s parents in Vandalia, afraid to go back to the house.

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Angel works from home as a CareSource special-populations engagement coordinator.

For two months or so before the house was repaired — back when it had no water or electricity — Angel worked from her parents’ home. She’d kiss her kids goodnight and then drive home to Trotwood to stay the night with her husband out of fear that the house would be looted.

The trip between the two houses was sometimes rough, especially if it rained. During those times, Angel found herself shaking and crying.

“I would have to talk to my husband (on the phone) until I got home,” she said. “It was scary.”

Angel said things have improved since she talked to a crisis counselor, though she wonders how much the tornadoes are impacting her kids’ focus on schoolwork.

The monster has changed everything, but Angel said the fear is not winning, and God is in control.

“I have my moments when there is a thunderstorm or lightning, but I have to be strong for my kids,” she said. “They make me have to be strong.”

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