New England weather is known for its unpredictability. This was never more evident than when a freak October snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow on communities across New England and the equally powerful tornado that ripped through Western Massachusetts earlier this year.
The recent snowstorm left hundreds of thousands of residents without power, many homeless, and thousands isolated by closed roads, snow and fallen trees and debris. May Institute’s own staff and residents in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts were among those affected. Without missing a beat, staff quickly went into action to keep residents safe – even relocating some to area hotels while the emergency teams completed their work – often having to set aside the crisis their own families were experiencing to put the care of the individuals we serve, first.
Kevin Jones, an Assistant Program Coordinator of 20 years, remembers the seconds before the devastating tornado showed up at the doorstep of a W. Springfield residence where he and his colleagues care for a group of adults with disabilities. The residence is one of more than 150 community-based residences in three states operated by May Institute’s Centers for Adult Services.
“We heard this weird, deafening noise like a train, but different. I opened the front door and everything went into slow motion for me. It was just like this huge dust cloud, a dark mushroom, a funnel with all this stuff circling in the air around it. Trees were falling, roofs and walls being ripped off houses. It took all my strength to close the door. As soon as I did, something slammed against the front door. The picture window blew out into the street. As fast as things were being sucked out of the front room, leaves and broken branches were everywhere being blown in through the window from the howling winds.
“I stayed with ‘Scott,’ who is confined to a wheelchair and held onto him for dear life, trying to keep him safe and away from the flying debris. I told him he wasn’t going anywhere without me.”
In the week that followed the tornado, it was reported that four people had died as a result. It was a devastating disaster from which the community is still covering. May Institute staff from our children’s and adult programs in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut went above and beyond the call of duty during those catastrophic events to ensure that those in our care remained safe. We are tremendously grateful to each of them.