Mom uses body to protect kids against tornado – volunteers rebuild home

Published: August 1, 2006 | 4533rd good news item since 2003

Nathan Brown stumbled into the shade of his supervisor’s tent, sweating and dehydrated from the summer heat at his company’s construction site with only one thing on his mind — “Super Mom.”

“That’s what I call her. Anybody who would do that for her kids is awesome. If she can make that kind of sacrifice, we can all make a sacrifice to help her,” Brown said.

Brown’s super mom is Amy Hawkins, a Hendersonville mother who has become a hero to many Americans. Hawkins saved the lives of her two sons, Jair, 6, and Cole, 3, by shielding their small bodies with her own when an F4 tornado literally flattened their house, tearing it down on top of them.

Brown is part of a 2,000 member team of trades people and volunteers headed up by reality show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Nashville-based Capitol Homes to rebuild the Hawkins’ home.

The Emmy-nominated, hit ABC television show picks a deserving family and gives them a complete home makeover in just seven days.

In the Hawkins’ case, the project means rebuilding the house from the ground up, and in time for the Friday unveiling when the family returns from a week-long vacation at Disneyland.

“A house is normally built in 90 to 120 days. The first two days were spent meeting the family, learning about their lifestyle and habits and designing the house around how they live their lives,” said Capitol Homes founder and president David Luecke. “Now the rest will be complete in less than five [days.] The hard part is making myself sleep — not because there’s so much to do. I have great people working for me, but because I am so excited.”

The construction site resembles a bustling anthill, swarming at all hours with blue shirts and white hard hats. Luecke said 60 masons laid 2,286 blocks for the foundation in four hours, a job normally done by a six-man crew in a day and a half. Another 60 house framers framed 126,000 board feet of lumber in 12 hours, a week and a half long job for 10 workers.

Spectators were welcomed to site, which could double as a Hollywood set. Buses brought on-lookers to the site who came from across the Southeast to watch as Extreme Makeover film crews documented both the work and the crowd.

One volunteer, a waitress at the nearby Texas Roadhouse restaurant, said she aspired to host her own home design show one day, while Nashville resident Tonya Lance said she made the 30-minute drive to introduce her son to “doing good things.”

The final product, estimated at $250,000, will be a drastic difference from the “war zone” local residents described as the tornado’s wake. Trees were snapped in half, cars thrown across yards and the land littered with personal belongs. A handful of houses, like the Hawkins’, were reduced to rubble.

“It was so sad. Your heart just broke for them. It was real emotional for anyone that saw it. Some homes were totally destroyed. You just saw the concrete pad that it was on,” said Wanda Gant, whose nearby home was untouched by the tornado. “It was real scary not knowing if there were any kids injured.”

Jair and Cole Hawkins were badly bruised and cut, but it was their mother who suffered the worst. Amy Hawkins was paralyzed from the waist down.

Everett Hawkins, her father-in-law, said that neighbors found the three of them buried in debris and fought quickly to free their bodies.

“They saw little Cole’s head sticking up from the brick area. They ran down there and started taking bricks off them. They could see Amy was in really bad shape. She had turned purple and was gasping for air. When they got Amy off the boys she was still cradling them with her arms around them,” Everett Hawkins said “My son went a long time not knowing if his family would be whole again.”

Amy Hawkins’ mind is whole again, and her spirits are high, Everett Hawkins said, but she faces a battle to walk again.

While the details of the house are being kept secret until Friday, people close to the project said a pool is being installed since swimming is part of Amy Hawkins’ physical therapy. The house will be wheelchair accessible with wider hallways and doorways so that she’s mobile room-to-room and the kitchen will be outfitted with lower amenities that she can reach, they said.

“One hundred percent is donated. The labor, the materials. This is the one time when cost is not even a concern,” Luecke said. “Amy is concerned it is too generous a gift, which is always the best gift to give.”

Published in Charity, Community, Heroes, Volunteer
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