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Devastated Bride Speaks Out After EF4 Tornado Desimates Dream Wedding

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Photos courtesy of Jessica Carter

On a day that is supposed to be one of the happiest days of one’s life, a day that traditionally marks new beginnings, hope, love, and celebration, this bride and groom experience tragedy. Unfortunately, for Jessica and Kyle Carpenter, it quickly became the most devastating and traumatic event of their lives when a recorded F4 tornado ripped through Jessica Carter’s and Kyle Carpenter’s dream wedding, located at beloved sister’s rustic wedding venue and home.

Minutes before the massive funnel hit the home, Jessica’s grandmother, mother, sister, niece, and photographer were all helping Jessica get ready for the ceremony. Laughter and the promise of the couple’s new life filled the air. Suddenly, the winds shifted and the sky became very dark. Jessica’s mother saw the horizontal rain and they began to flee for the storm shelter outside but they never made it that far. Glass shattered in all directions and when they ran for their lives, the walls before them were destroyed in every direction, everywhere they turned. There was no time to make it to the storm shelter, so they turned to the only standing wall left, clinging for their lives. Jessica and her family found the strongest wall they could find to hunker down and take cover. As soon as Amanda (Jessica’s sister) closed the door behind them and yelled to get down, the door was torn from her hands. Jessica instinctively covered her grandmother who was closest to her and Reba, her photographer covered Jessica’s son.

Of the entire home, the wall where Jessica and family had fled to was the only wall left standing in the entire home.

Once the massive tornado had passed, the women sifted through rubble searching for survivors and children. Making it outside, they reached the storm shelter. There they found loved ones that were injured and bleeding. Jessica found her fiance’ covered in the groomsman’s blood who saved his life.

Rusty Barlow, Jessica’s stepfather was in the car shop with several stored cars with several children and wedding guests. Rusty heroically sacrificed his own life to save 13-year-old “Sissy” Emily Pruitt. He instinctively grabbed her as she was being lifted into the air. Rusty managed pushed her underneath one of the cars as the tornado hit the shop directly. The shop was decimated. Tragically, Rusty did not survive. However, Rusty died a hero saving Emily’s life.

About 100 yards from the car shop where the home lay in ruins, the only wall of the home left standing was the wall that Jessica and her family had clung, too. Miraculously, that same very wall that hung a cross, untouched, as depicted here.

Additionally, amidst the devastation and debris, there was trunk that was broken and perpendicular, tied together by a cable wire that was tied in the shape of a makeshift cross. Astonishingly, behind the cross laid “Sissy” Emily Pruitt’s bible untouched.

These two miracles were enough to sustain this family’s strong faith despite the tragic loss and devastation. The beautiful family remains humble, hopeful, brave, and hope for their future. They feel honored to share their story in hopes that it will change another’s life.

Although this beautiful family tries their best to be strong, they are literally picking up the pieces of their lives and have a very long road to recovery. This family along with so many from East Texas have suffered tremendous loss and will continue to recover for years to come. The storms have passed but the clean up will take years. During times of grief, it has been said that it feels like the world stops turning.

For this family and others like them, their world didn’t just stop turning, their world was destroyed in every sense that one can attempt to fathom. Jessica’s sister and brother in law, Amanda Scott and Clyde Scott had graciously opened their home so that Jessica and fiance’ could have their dream wedding only have everything decimated, the wedding, their home, and their lives.

The tornado led a path of incomprehensible destruction in their lives. It is such a tragedy yet these kind hearted people want more than anything to help others find faith, remain hopeful, and humble. The family wants more than anything  to convey is to be grateful for each precious moment, to  urge not take loved ones for for granted, and to hold your loved ones forever close. This humble family have lived the tragic reality that our lives are finite; that we all can be here one second and gone the next in the next breath. Tragedy can strike anywhere at anytime.

This brave family would love more than anything for their story to inspire others to hold steadfast to their faith, loved ones, and to make a difference in others lives by sharing their story in hopes to make a difference in at least one person’s life. That their message of hope is found despite the immense tragedy.

Relief efforts are still ongoing. Jessica and her family have lost so much. Their loss cannot be quantified in monetary value. Jessica’s lost her dear step father and Jessica’s mother among others have lost their entire world.

Jessica and family are not the only ones in need. Jessica’s family and many in East Texas are still in need of major assistance. Here is a complete list of local verified ways to make a donation to Jessica and her family and local verified charitable organizations.

Jessica Carter and Kyle Carpenter’s Go Fund Me page is here.

First Baptist Church of Athens and Athens Fire Department will also accept donations for East Texas relief efforts, as well.

Every little bit helps. The tornado is long gone but this humble family will be picking up the pieces for their entire lives.