R. J. Eppes: Nearly Swept Away
By Mia Evans
The 700 Club
CBN.com - “I could see my 8-year-old getting up from the top bunk and right when he's getting up and I'm getting ready to grab him, the shearing comes in so quick,” recalls Reginald Eppes, Sr. “So in an instant I see R.J. move and the walls go right behind him.”
On Aril 27, 2011, a fierce tornado sucked 8-year-old Reginald Eppes, Jr. out of his bedroom. His parents Reginald Sr. and Danielle remember the desperate prayers they prayed as their lives unraveled in the furious winds. That storm was part of a violent tornado outbreak across the South that left some 350 people dead and entire communities in ruins. In the town of Cottondale, Alabama, the Eppes’ quiet neighborhood was caught off guard just after 5a.m.
“I noticed that the wind was kind of strong but I didn't think much about it,” Danielle says.
Reginald remembers. “She says ‘Baby, do you want get the boys up?’ I said, ‘Uh…’ Before I could finish that statement, the lights went out, the winds started going, the windows blew.”
“So I went to grab Joel my younger son.” Danielle says. “Reginald grabbed James Peter and went to grab R.J. As he reached for R.J. the wind came and the whole house blew.”
The violent tornado ripped through the neighborhood, shredding houses in its path. It completely tore the Eppes' home off its foundation, taking little R.J. with it.
”I didn't have time to be fearful,” Reginald says. “My concern was: my 8-year-old is gone and what do I have? I have my 6-year-old. I just remember I was praying over him and I just said ‘Daddy's got you, don't worry. I'm not going to let you go, buddy.’"
Danielle remembers, “We were just kneeling there calling out to God for Him to protect us. I had to absolutely rely on God and trust that He was going to protect my son.”
The winds died down….and within seconds, Reginald and Danielle say they witnessed a miracle.
“When it was all over, I called for RJ twice. ‘R.J.! R.J.!’" Danielle exclaims. “The lightning struck and I could see his silhouette that he was walking back to us.”
R.J. had only minor cuts, and a few bumps and bruises.
“I did have a sense of relief when I saw RJ walking back to me because I knew because he was walking, that he was fine,” Danielle shares.
“There's no words can tell you how I felt,” Reginald adds. “I was just happy.”
“I saw a log float past me so I actually knew that I was in the air,” R.J. remembers. “I woke up when I was about to float down.”
Danielle says, “I'm not sure how far the wind carried him but I know that he walked back to me. Very few of my possessions are still whole, and yet my 52-pound son is completely fine except for a couple of scrapes that were on his back.”
Reginald Sr. was treated for three broken ribs and a collapsed lung, injuries he sustained when he was hit by a flying appliance during the tornado.
That's pretty astounding because you look at it: there was too much debris,” Reginald shares. It was just too much devastation only to have such minor injuries.
Reginald has since returned to work as a firefighter. Even now amid the debris and splintered memories, they have hope for their family’s future.
Mia (Reporter): “Soon you'll be rebuilding your dream house.”
Reginald: “Building our dream house that's right.”
Mia (Reporter): “I see those smiles!”
Mia (Reporter): “Will it be bigger?”
“I'm standing on these grounds and we get to start over.” Reginald says. “We get to open the book, flip the page and start stroking the pen on a new life.”
For Reginald and Danielle, the miraculous survival of their son R.J. and their entire family has only strengthened their faith in Jesus.
Our faith that we have as a family, you know that's what sustains us through our whole ordeal, “says Reginald. “I think that's what allowed us to see that when you lose everything you lose nothing at all, because He's the one that sustains us and keeps us together. You can buy a house, you can buy clothes and cars. But you can't buy your children and your wife—the things that actually mean something.
“Jesus carried us all,” says Danielle. “It’s a miracle that our lives were spared and we were all safe. It’s an absolute miracle! It illustrates His love for us, His divine protection and His care.”
“Instead of getting thrown to the other side of my neighbors' house I was right beside my parents,” R.J. remembers. “It's a miracle that I was alive.”
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