Family injured in Essex tornado: 'We definitely had an angel with us'

Family injured in Essex tornado: 'We definitely had an angel with us'

ESSEX, VA (WWBT) - It was a pretty normal night getting dinner ready on Feb. 24, 2016. In the other room, the TVs were tuned in to weather coverage.

"So that's when I called my aunt and I just told her how I felt, you know, about the situation. I was really scared," said Melanie Blue, referring to tornado warnings that were popping up in the region.

Jason, Melanie and her three kids ran into the closet. Blue's son heard it coming.

"He was like, 'Mom, listen!' So, I listened and it sounded like a train is coming into the house," she said.

The moments after are blurry, but they're moments a family of faith would call miraculous.

"I remember my kids actually being pulled from me because I had my arms around them. And then I don't actually remember being in the tornado though," Blue said.

"The next thing I remember is waking up and the whole house is on us," she said. Blue said the first sound she heard was her youngest daughter Aaliyah.

She was "screaming, 'mommy, help me!' When I went to move to try to get to her, that's when I realized (her) leg was broken. It was broke in half," she said.

Then she watched her son, Devontre, get up and try to help his oldest sister, Jada. One look at her, and he faints.

"When he woke back up, he told me that he saw his sister's leg up by her head," Blue said. "... It was hard to just ... lay there."

But that's when Blue says her faith in God was reaffirmed.  Little miracles were sprinkled among the pieces of their home.

She closed her eyes and said a prayer.

"So after that prayer, I opened my eyes up and my phone lit up right beside me. My phone, I still have it it's right here, this was in the tornado. It was right beside me."

Of all the things scattered around her property, Blue's phone lands right beside her. She calls for help, but the streets were covered with debris and downed power lines.

"At first it was very hopeless because I thought that they couldn't get us out," she said.

Blue broke her femur, her pelvis in two places, a vertebrae in her neck, and her nose.

Jason suffered a concussion, fractured his right shoulder and dislocated a bone in his right arm. He broke his left arm in 20 places, and cut his stomach open.

Then the kids -- 12-year-old Jada, broke her left femur, injured her ACL and cut her face; 17-year-old Devontre broke his collar bone and lost hearing in one ear for a while from a hard hit to the side of his head.

As for the baby of the family -- 7-year-old Aaliyah whose small body could physically withstand the least, virtually untouched.

"I thought that was amazing. And she was the one that was covered, covered, completely covered and all she had was a scratch," Blue said.

"We definitely had an angel with us," Jason Burrell said.

The last year has been very trying for this family.  They're staying in a rental home with help from donors because doctors haven't cleared them to return to work.

"That's not helping the healing process," said Burrell. "It's been a year and -- I'm just ready to do something.  Something -- I don't know."

But in the times Blue and Burrell struggle physically and emotionally, they stop and count their blessings.

"You can replace material things but you can't replace a life. So, that's how I stay positive; I still get to see my children grow up," said Blue.

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