WASHINGTON — Trisha and Brandon Crull never considered leaving Washington after their home was totaled by the 2013 tornado.
They were living in their dream home, in a town they love, and they had only lived there six years. The central Illinois natives built the house when they moved home from Florida in 2007.
“We wanted to move back to Illinois because we wanted to start a family,” said Trisha Crull. “We found a beautiful lot and were able to build a beautiful house.”
On the morning of Nov. 17, 2013, after sheltering with her two young children in the lowest level of the house, Trisha ventured outside to find half the house blown away.
The morning had been like many Sundays in the Crull household. Brandon, an Army reservist, was at a meeting in Bartonville, so Trisha took their children, Ella, 6, and Aiden, 5, to early Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. They were at home playing in the great room when the sirens went off.
“The sirens seemed really loud, something stood out. I thought this seems weird, with the weather so warm, so I said, ‘Let's go downstairs,’” Trisha said. “We grabbed the cat and went downstairs to the home theater room. We had decided it was the safest room in the house, the most interior room.”
The power went out as Trisha looked up the weather on her iPad. Then the room’s French doors started to rattle. Unbeknownst to the family, the glass slider in the walk-out basement had shattered.
“We have a lot of soundproofing in the theater room,” Trisha said. “So I had no idea what was going on. I went ahead and grabbed the doors because they were starting to open, and I calmed the kids until the doors stopped rattling.”
A few minutes later, with the children still in the safe-room, Trisha walked through the broken slider.
“I walk into the back yard and see the house across the treeline is gone — there’s nothing there,” said Trisha. “I had a cellphone with me and I called my husband and said, ‘I think we’ve just been hit by a tornado, the neighbor’s house is gone.’ Then I turned around.”
Looking at her own home almost like an afterthought, Trisha saw that the roof was gone, the back of the house had collapsed, and the children’s second-floor bedrooms were completely exposed, facts she related to her husband before hanging up and calling her father.
“Before the phones were gone I called my dad and said, ‘We’ve been hit by a tornado. Bring the truck.’
Living in Florida for seven years, the Crulls knew a bit about violent storms. They knew they couldn’t stay in their damaged home, so they moved quickly.
“I kept the kids in the theater room because they were safe there. I was big on my kids not seeing anything — they were five and six and I just didn’t want them to see any of it,” Trisha said.
Brandon made it home in record time. He parked a few blocks away and walked the rest of the way home.
“He found us in the theater room, and he brought the cat carrier,” Trisha said.
The children went to stay with friends as the family gathered what they could.
“The children’s toys were everywhere,” said Trisha. “One of her Little Ponies, Pinkie Pie, went flying through the tornado. She’s the one that would have had fun, so we made a joke of it. We told Ella ‘Pinkie Pie would have been going ‘whee!’ the whole time.’ That was the first thing we replaced — the pink pony for my daughter. For my son we found his baby blanket — he still has it today. And we had to buy him a new coat. Those were the first purchases we made.”
The family stayed with Trisha’s parents in Morton until renting a nearby home a neighbor was trying to sell. By Monday night the couple had an assessment from the insurance company and had spoken to their builder, the same one who built the original house. He agreed to do the demolition and reconstruction.
“By December they had torn down our home. We had geothermal heating which heated the basement so the concrete wouldn’t crack, and Scott Lewis Homes started building as soon as the weather permitted,” said Trisha. “Scott was amazing. He had also built the house across the street from us — they had been in their home less than six months. Scott rebuilt both our houses at the same time.”
Nearly a year passed in a whirlwind of activity. On Oct. 24, 2014, the family moved into their dream home for the second time. It was almost the same, with a few improvements, including a pocket door in place of the French doors Trisha had hung onto as the tornado ripped through their home.
“I feel like we were some of the lucky ones,” said Trisha. “Our builder was fantastic, our insurance was fantastic, and we were so lucky to have a rental home a few blocks from the house I grew up in. We were blessed and lucky to have things work out the way they did.”
Even though they were comfortable in the Morton home, relocating there permanently was not something the family ever considered, Trisha said.
“We are members at St. Pat's, and we have such an amazing church community, and the kids attend St. Pat’s School,” she said. “The way they support everyone is amazing. We wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.