Life after the storm: One year after tornado, Nance family recounts their blessings

ASHLAND – Less than a week before the Shane, Rhonda, Wade and Logan Nance family would mark the one-year anniversary of the May 2, 2010, tornado that changed their lives, Northeast Mississippi was again in the path of deadly tornadoes.
As stories of loss of life unfolded in Smithville and across Mississippi – a death toll last reported at 35 – Rhonda Nance said she has been unable to watch.
“It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year,” she said. “Every time there’s a storm or severe weather forecast, family and friends call to see how we’re coping with it. My friends and I are always texting, and they text to say ‘hope you and family are doing fine.’ They all shelter around me.”
That kind of support is what has sustained the family, Rhonda Nance said. Shane Nance was unable to be home when the family recently talked with the Daily Journal.
They have settled into a new brick home in downtown Ashland, miles from the Old Nance Road mobile home they lived in that was picked up by a tornado and tossed about 20 feet into the air, landing with such force that it broke Shane, Rhonda and Wade’s backs.
Now 10 years old, Logan is a fourth-grader at Falkner School. He suffered minor injuries during the tornado, and was the family hero who found the cellphone in his mother’s pocket and summoned help immediately after the storm.
Wade, now 14, is an eighth-grader at Falkner. The spinal cord injuries he sustained left him in a wheelchair, and he spent weeks at LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center, then The Shepherd Center in Atlanta for spinal injuries, learning to handle himself without being able to walk.
The life-changing storm has hardly slowed him down. Wade’s right leg is in a cast for several more weeks as the result of a broken thigh bone that happened while out riding a four-wheeler with friends.
“I still get around and do what I want to do,” Wade said.
Shane Nance’s back was broken and he was taken to North Mississippi Medical Center, treated and put in a body brace for more than six months to allow his back to heal naturally.
The former roofer has returned to work, but went back to a job he did before roofing work – operating a skidder for a logging company.
Rhonda Nance, whose back was broken, also had broken ribs on both sides and a punctured lung that collapsed. She, too, spent months in a body brace before being released to return to work.
However, instead of returning to the accounting job she held before in Holly Springs, which required a commute, she now works just minutes from home at Ashland Baptist Church, where her church family has provided so much support through the past year.
“It helps a lot having a job close by,” Rhonda Nance said. “I’m able to take the kids to and from school and pick them up if they get sick or anything. I love living in town now where everything is more convenient. Before, we were 12 minutes out of town.”
Not only has the church been the source of new employment for Rhonda Nance, the property where their new 1,700-square-foot home was built with donated materials and donated labor was given to them by Ashland Baptist’s youth minister, Anthony Mitchell.
“There are not enough words to say how much our church has done for us, and people from all over who sent donations, came and worked to provide us with a new home and so much more,” Rhonda Nance said.
Knowing the Lord would take care of them was “the only way I got through it,” Rhonda Nance said.
She urges people who have suffered in the recent storms – the death of loved ones, injuries, loss of their homes – to allow themselves to lean on others to help them with recovery.
“I was a person who did everything for myself and others, so it was hard to let myself accept help,” Rhonda Nance said. “Let people help you. They get a blessing from that, and you do too.”

Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@journalinc.com.

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau