Jacksonville man credits two students with saving his family

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An EF-3 tornado ripped through Jacksonville Monday leaving behind plenty of destruction. 

Fortunately no lives were lost and one family, who survived the storm, talked with WZDX News, saying it was a close call for them. 

The father explains decisions the decisions he made.

From certain vantage points, Patterson Hall on JSU’s campus wasn’t the safest place to be during Monday night’s tornado, but for one family, who left their trailer home, it was the safest place for them.

Tyler Gurley said, “That hit me and my daughter. There’s my daughter’s blanket.”

Gurley was out the morning after the storm looking for his wallet on Jacksonville State’s campus.

He’s not a student, but it’s where he, his nine and two-year-old daughters, newborn son and wife ended up when the storm hit.

“My wife said, ‘It’s here,’ and I said, ‘Don’t get them kids riled up, it ain’t here,'” said Gurley.  

In the moments before the storm, Gurley’s daughter was hysterical, but he wasn’t, thinking the weather was not that bad.

He tells us that seconds later, he drove off, his suburban packed with his family, and ended up about a mile down the road. 

“I couldn’t see anything no more. I didn’t know what I hit or what hit me. It spun me around and that’s when I knew I was in the tornado right here,” said Gurley.  

Gurley’s daughter Aislyn said, “I was trying to hold the pillow over everybody and we started screaming and my Dad told us to get out so we started running to the building.”

“I turned around at that point and I put my hands over my baby’s face,” said Gurley.  

His children and wife ran from the truck and hid under an awning at Patterson Hall.

Gurley said he had his two-year-old and heard his wife and other children calling for him, but  he never did see them.

He says he jumped back into his truck and drove towards the dorm.

“I pulled up on this bank right here and pulled up on the steps right here and that’s when I seen them right there. I drove my truck up on them steps,” said  Gurley.

Brett Walton said, “We saw them coming up and they drove up on the steps and got out of their car and we let them in.”

Brett Walton and Christian Edwards, who is from Hartselle in North Alabama, are both JSU Baseball players. 

The storm hit while students were on Spring Break, so Patterson Hall was empty. 

Baseball players were in Spring Practice and Edwards and Walton were the only two inside Patterson Hall. 

Gurley credits them with saving his family. 

“We wouldn’t have made it. We wouldn’t have. As soon as them alarms go off or if you know that there’s one coming don’t wait,” said Gurley.

The National Weather Service Confirmed an EF-3 Tornado touched down in Jacksonville Monday.

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