Inside A Tornado: 8-Year-Old Survivor's Tale

8:29 AM, Jun 9, 2011   |    comments
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ATLANTA (WXIA) -- "This is so much fun!"

Andrew Ellis is beating a drum set as hard as he can. He bangs on the cymbals. "Now that was awesome!"

Andrew, 8-years-old, loves music therapy at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Physical therapy, not so much. It's hard. He grunts and groans as he struggles to stand and follow instructions.

This is a glimpse of the battle this boy has been fighting since April 27th. On that day, tornadoes killed more than 300 people across the south, and Andrew lost four members of his own family.


First, in the morning, a storm knocked out the power to the Ellis family home in Catoosa County, so his parents took Andrew and his 17 year old brother Adam to his grandmother's mobile home outside Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Then, that evening, the F4 tornado that destroyed Ringgold, Georgia headed for that mobile home park. Andrew remembers scrambling to get to the bathroom.

"She said hurry up and get in the bathtub, so me my brother, I don't know who else, but we all went for the bathtub. My grandma got on top of me. I passed out but then I wake back up and all I see is me getting banged around in the bathtub."

What happened next sounds unbelievable, but is true.

Gesturing with his arms Andrew says, "Then my grandma flies off of me and then I fly out, then I'm like, flying in the sky, and then I don't remember after that because I just slammed down on the ground."

Andrew remembers debris swirling around him and was terrified of falling.

"I didn't want to fall down on the ground and get stabbed by something, like a piece of glass or something."

Four hours later, Chattanooga's Swat Team found Andrew unconscious, in the rubble. He was more than a quarter mile from his grandmother's home.

His brother, his grandmother, great-grandmother and cousin all perished.

Andrew is asked how he's doing now.

With a big grin he says, "Good. Yeah."

Andrew suffered head injuries, cuts, and broken bones. Mom or Dad is always with him, grieving the loss of one son, grateful the other was spared.

Dr. Maurice Sholas of Children's Healthcare says, "He's got a wonderful will and a wonderful spirit."

Even doctors cannot explain how this boy flew inside an F4 tornado, and survived that landing.

Dr. Sholas says, "Life is random. And fortunately for us and for him, his random led to another chapter."

The next chapter begins Thursday when Andrew checks out of Children's Healthcare and starts outpatient rehab.

He has been through something we can't imagine. And at the end of the day, he wants what we all do, to go home. And because he's 8 years old, there's something else he wants.

"To play with my friends."

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