Main Content

DFW twisters disrupt lives of alumni families

A look inside the Harbours' damaged apartment in a complex destroyed along Interstate 30 in Garland. (Photo by Dr. Michael Harbour)
A look inside the Harbours’ damaged apartment in a complex destroyed along Interstate 30 in Garland. (Photo by Dr. Michael Harbour)
Among the hundreds of people putting their tornado-shredded lives back together in the Dallas and Fort Worth Metroplex are four Abilene Christian University alumni.
Dr. Michael (’06 D.Min.) and Sandra (Anderson ’82) Harbour of Garland and Mike (’90) and Michelle (Kehoe ’90) Patterson of Rowlett represent families affected among the 1,800 houses and businesses damaged in the rare wintertime tornadoes Dec. 26. The National Weather Service said three twisters – some as strong as EF-4, with winds up to 200 mph – were the cause. The city of Garland reported damage to 783 houses, with 236 of them destroyed.
Winter Storm Goliath has caused 52 deaths in blizzards stretching from New Mexico to Maine, epic flooding in Illinois and Missouri, and tornadoes in Texas.
Eleven of the 52 were killed in the DFW Metroplex, including a 3-day old “Christmas baby” just home from the hospital in the small Collin County town of Blue Ridge; a Copeville man who shielded his wife with his own body just days after celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary; and several whose vehicles were tossed from roadways. Eight of those 11 died in Garland.
A yellow Volkswagen, one of the Harbours' vehicles, was heavily damaged in the storm.
A yellow Volkswagen, one of the Harbours’ vehicles, was heavily damaged in the storm. (Photo by Dr. Michael Harbour)
The Harbours were traveling in Arizona when the storm struck and upon returning home, could only salvage a few things from their apartment alongside Interstate 30 in Garland. ACU friends and students, along with their spiritual family at Skillman Church of Christ in Dallas, are helping them get settled temporarily in an apartment building where university students live while attending classes at ACU at CitySquare.
Michael, former executive administrative director of ACU’s Honors College, wrote on his Facebook page Dec. 29:

“We are choosing to be defiantly joyful … Working the problems and being an encouragement to those we encounter. … We hurt for our neighbors. We are amazed with the community. We are thankful for our friends, for your big and kind and generous hearts. You are helping us. We are so thankful.”

The Patterson family, including sons Blake and Cameron, were visiting family in Georgia when the storm tore apart their Rowlett house in Rockwall County.
“For me, it’s been hard, it’s been shocking, it’s been surreal. But the blessings we have received from our church and others are very humbling,” said Mike Patterson, who cited friend Doug Hall (’90) for setting up a GoFundMe account to help financially bridge the gap of a return to everyday life. He also talked of friends, including two firemen from church, who helped recover personal items or protect them from the weather until the family could arrive.
“This has been a powerful reminder that this world is not our home and we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. Our lives can change in an instant; in the time it takes to receive a text message,” Patterson said. “There are lots of profound lessons we are learning. This is not a life experience we expected to have and we would not have been able to empathize with those who go through it. But now we can.”
The Pattersons have found an apartment in which to live. They attend Garland’s Saturn Road Church of Christ, which is helping lead aid efforts in its community.
A semitrailer with supplies arrived Dec. 30 at Saturn Road from Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort Inc., a nonprofit based in Nashville, Tenn. Members of the congregation have been preparing and delivering food daily for a worksite near Bobtown and Westlake roads where volunteers are helping clean up. The church’s Facebook page provides updates several times each day on opportunities for volunteers.
Similar volunteer work is being done through Rockwall’s Eastridge Church of Christ (also in concert with Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort Inc.), Mesquite’s Meadow View Church of Christ, The Church of Christ on McDermott Road in Plano, and Dallas’ Western Heights Bilingual Church of Christ and Prestoncrest Church of Christ, among others.
You can help the Pattersons by donating to this GoFundMe page.
You can help the Harbours by donating at the Skillman congregation’s online giving Web page.
The Dallas Morning News aggregates ways anyone can volunteer or donate at this Web page.

Garland tornado damage 3 600x400 96
Workers help remove tornado debris from along Interstate 30 in Garland, Texas. (Photo by Dr. Michael Harbour)