Van, TX,
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Coach Huddles Family for Storm Safety

Recalls play one year later

Most Sundays are routine for the 2,600 residents of Van, Texas. With just a few churches, diners and a grocery store, it’s easy to bump into one another during the day. One such Sunday, resident Jeff Moore enjoyed his routine with family, friends and high-school football, but May 10, 2015 turned out to be anything but typical.

Across town from Jeff, friend and football Coach Robby Parish, spent Mother’s Day outside with his wife, daughter and son. The weather was nice, but the Parish’s knew strong storms were in the forecast.

“We are always aware. We talked a couple weeks (before) about where we would go [for safety],” said Parish.

A strong storm passed through Corsicana, Texas that evening less than 100 miles southwest from Van, but right on the town’s path. Robby was right: the electricity went out, setting alerts off their phones. So the Parish family took shelter.

“The kids weren’t scared, we were getting in our safe place just in case. We went into our son’s closet, huddled and listened to the rain,” shared Parish. “You know the storm is getting close, but you don’t know it’s going to hit your house.”

A Destructive Darkness

Then the tornado hit. According to the Parish family, it sounded like you were standing next to an airplane. When the family opened the front door, they didn’t yet register their home was destroyed.

“We’ve just had a tornado in Van,” a policyholder told State Farm Agent Johnny Thompson. “My roof is gone and I can’t see my neighbor’s house.”


Moore, a claims specialist, started helping his friends and policyholders late that night. He tirelessly wore two hats, “it’s probably been the most proud I’ve been [of Jeff],” said Team Manager Andy Barfield, “Jeff called me. He knew several homes and much of Van were destroyed.” Jeff and his wife represented State Farm and their community.

At one of the churches in town, Parish recalls residents emotionally embracing – even if they didn’t know each other well. Upon returning home the Parish family realized what they had survived.

“We closed the door and immediately prayed,” Parish said when he, his wife and their two young kids saw the only four walls still standing were the ones where they huddled; “God just saved us.”

The Rebuilding Process

The EF-3 tornado damaged about 30% of the town. Many homes, businesses and a school were destroyed.

By daylight, the following day, Agent Johnny Thompson and his wife were handing out water, Jeff was ready to go at a local church helping policyholders and Robby was trying to pick up what was left of his family’s belongings.

Robby was picking up the pieces when he recalls State Farm coming to him. Power and communications channels were down, so he hadn’t even contacted - or thought about - insurance when the estimate was written on his home to start the rebuilding.

“It’s good to know we backed our promise,” said Thompson “We were part of the rebuilding and it felt good.”

Live, Revived

The Parish family now lives in a newly constructed home on the same lot in Van. Their beautiful gray brick ranch has an open floor plan, stylish and modern finishes, and bedrooms designed by the kids. Their new house also features a concrete block shelter with a steel door, stylishly disguised as a bathroom near the side-entry garage.

Once in the home, a focal point that can be seen anywhere is a cross on the wall. The cross has colorful glass that catches the light and your eye. The few shattered dishes – family heirlooms recovered from the Parish home following the tornado were made into the cross. It serves as a reminder of what they lived through and the protection they had.

“People are resilient, some people have moved, some have rebuilt, but (leaving) was never a thought for us,” said Parish. “This is our home, we weren’t going to leave it.”