Officer Ron Duke’s Story in his own words

As I was walking out to my shop, I heard the unmistakable sound of a freight train coming. Since there is no train service around my house, I knew that this was it. I went back into the house and I got everybody in back hallway. We grabbed some pillows, held on to each other and started to pray. The noise in the house grew and then the house was shaking. There was banging, as debris struck the house and then we heard the breaking of glass.

What is so terrifying is not knowing if the intensity of the storm hitting the house is going to get worse and rip the house apart, of if this is as bad as it will get. When it finally stops, you wonder if this is just the eye of the storm, or
if it is finally over.

Ron Duke 03b Aerial

Preface from Ash Heda –

On April 29, 2017 four tornadoes hit Canton, Texas. Five people lost their lives, according to one official account, almost 5000 addresses are affected. Several people lost their precious (and in few cases only) belongings. These tornadoes devastated their lives. Ron Duke, my neighbor in Canton, Texas almost had a near death experience. He is a brave police officer and has seen several calamities but none was as horrifying and of this magnitude. Below, please Ron’s story in his own words with graphic details of the incidence when the tornado swept their home where his entire family was having their supper. (I urge readers to visit the ‘Gofundme’ link and help the Duke’s rebuild their life).

Officer Ron Duke below –

(I attached 2 pictures of my son’s house and car, home phone service is still spotty so email or text is the best way to contact us.)

On Sat, 04-29-17, at about 1800 hrs. (6pm) I was at my house, getting ready to eat dinner.

My wife, my 18 yr. son, Joshua, my 16 yr. daughter, along with her highschool friend, Brice, my oldest son Justin, and Justin’s wife, were all at my house.  Justin, who is a full time firefighter/ paramedic with Arlington, and also works part time for Canton Fire Department, was in my shop, working his side job, to refurbish and sell emergency vehicle lights.  At about this time, the warnings started to come in about a severe storm in SW Van Zandt County.  I got my police radio and monitored the emergency traffic.  I heard that a tornado struck an area, 10-15 miles SW of my house and that it had caused severe damage.  Off duty officers were being called in to assist with the emergency.  I went and got my police uniform on and my youngest son, Josh, said he wanted to come and help with search and rescue.  Justin left our house to head to the Canton FD and I went out to the shed to get some extra firefighting bunker gear, so that Josh and I would have some extra protection.

How injured neighbors helped each other – To hear KLTV Clip, click Here

As I was walking out to my shop, I heard the unmistakable sound of a freight train coming.  Since there is no train service around my house, I knew that this was it. I went back into the house and I got everybody in back hallway.  We grabbed some pillows, held on to each other and started to pray.  The noise in the house grew and then the house was shaking.  There was banging, as debris struck the house and then we heard the breaking of glass.  What is so terrifying is not knowing if the intensity of the storm hitting the house is going to get worse and rip the house apart, of if this is as bad as it will get.  When it finally stops, you wonder if this is just the eye of the storm, or
if it is finally over.

We waited a little bit and then came out of the hallway.  We found that about half the shingles on our roof were damaged/ missing, some bricks were knocked out of a wall and several windows were broken.  My house is (now, was) surrounded by large trees.

Justin's Car

My son Justin, as he was driving to the Canton FD, looked in his rear view mirror and saw the tornado hit our house.  He came back to help us.  Many of these trees were knocked down, limbs everywhere, electric lines and poles down.  All of our vehicles were trapped by the downed trees and such, so I texted a neighbor, Eric Whitaker.  Eric and his son, Gavin quickly came with a tractor.  Eric cleared away everything, so we could get out of the driveway.  As we were clearing away the limbs, some of the Canton FD crew notified my son Justin, that his house, on Hw 198, was gone.

(More on Justin and Aerial Duke’s story, click the link here http://www.kltv.com/story/35399022/newlyweds-reunited-with-wedding-ring-lost-in-tornado-debris)

We realized that there was nothing we could do at my place for the night, so we headed over to Justin’s house.  The closer we got to his house, the worse the damage was.  When we got to the address of Justin’s house, we saw that it was truly gone.  Nothing left but some of the foundation.  His car was picked up and destroyed and the 40 foot shipping container, where store extra inventory, was missing.  (The completely smashed container was located the next day, about 1 mile away.)

My wife, daughter, and the friend then went to a friend’s house in Edgewood, where they had power.  Ariel and Justin went to Ariel’s’ parents’ house and Joshua and I went to the Canton command post.  EMS was staging at the Canton HS band hall.  We stayed there was awhile and then Josh went to the TX DOT location to assist in search and rescue.  I went to the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office to see if I could help, but they had things under control there.  I decided to go to my house and sleep in my car. I was concerned with thieves.  While I was at home, two guys in a pickup truck drove up.  I stopped and challenged them and they claimed, “we heard the fire dept. needed some help with cutting trees, with chain saws.”  I told them wrong location and the left.

After a long, cold and uncomfortable night in my car, we started on my house first thing Sunday.  Many, many people showed up to help.  Friends, neighbors, friends of friends, strangers, all came out to help.  We got my entire house roof covered with tarping and we got and removed a HUGE amount of debris.  Sunday was a long day, but a protective day. What we are now working on is to place into storage tubs, the contents of my 40 x 80 shed.  I have many, many shelves of books, so it will be a task.

Please continue to pray for the families of those who have been injured, lost homes and property and especially, those that have lost loved ones.

https://www.gofundme.com/3pv7amo

Thank you.

“This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.”

Psalm 91:2

http://www.click2houston.com/news/survivors-recount-moments-living-through-at-least-three-tornadoes-rip-through-east-texas

(at about the 1:52 mark, you can see the Sides Pea Farm, which was across the street from my place)

http://www.click2houston.com/news/survivors-recount-moments-living-through-at-least-three-tornadoes-rip-through-east-texas

http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/texas-news/raw-unedited-rescue-dear-jesus-please-let-this-b
aby-breath/435461265

http://www.kltv.com/story/35286838/national-weather-service-4-confirmed-tornadoes-hit-east-texas-survey-could-take-days

http://www.kltv.com/clip/13289725/raw-tornado-tears-through-texas

Ron Duke
Canton, TX

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