Faith: After The Storm “Garrett’s Story”

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On April 27, 2011 a tornado outbreak ripped lives apart throughout Alabama and Tennessee. A little boy named Garrett LeClere lost both of his parents. Days after the tragedy, the child explained how he learned of their deaths – from Jesus.

Garrett and his family took shelter in the bathroom of their Phil Campbell, Alabama home just before an EF 5 twister blew it to pieces. Amy and Jay LeClere, Garrett’s parents, were killed. Garrett was thrown roughly 100 yards away and eventually discovered alive under the rubble on a basketball court.

Jeff McCormick rushed to check on Amy, his ex-wife, as soon as he realized they were in the tornado’s path.  “When I got to the top of the hill, I was just in tears,” McCormick explained. He quickly learned that Amy and Jay were dead and set to work tracking down Garrett and his sister Marisa at area hospitals.

Garrett had broken bones and bruises. As he healed, he told Jeff more about what happened in the storm. One thing he wasn’t talking about was his parents, so Jeff decided to tell the five-year-old about their passing.

“I said, ‘They died.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I know.’ I said, ‘You know? How do you know Garrett?’ He said, ‘Jesus told me.'”

The confession struck Jeff speechless, “What can you tell a 5-year-old when he tells you that?”

Today, Garrett still has no trouble recalling how he learned of his parents’ death.  Walking on the lot where his old house once stood, the child explained to WHNT News 19 how a heavenly messenger brought him the news. “Angels are on the earth and sometimes they can talk to you,” Garrett said, “I’m not talkin’ about the ones you can see.”

According to Jeff, Garrett had never been in church before the tornado came through, so the boy’s testimony seemed even more remarkable. The incident has led to a spiritual awakening of sorts for Jeff and his family.  They have adopted Garrett and his sister and now attend Russellville’s Grace Baptist Church frequently.

Wayne Benson, a pastor at Huntsville’s The Rock church, said tragedy often draws people closer to God, even without a divine experience like Garrett’s. The emotions and physical struggles of a crisis can lead people to search for stability in faith.

“When we have something like that in our life, we need something bigger than ourselves,” Benson said, “We need an anchor that will hold in 150 mile an hour wind.”

Jeff said he thinks God spared Garrett for a reason and hopes the child’s survival story inspires people of all faiths to live fully, no matter what storms are on the horizon.

“Don’t take anything for granted. Tomorrow is not promised to us,” Jeff said. “Jesus has a plan for all of us one day.”

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