NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Hundreds of volunteers converged on tornado ravaged neighborhoods over the weekend to help homeowners begin the arduous cleanup process.
Thelma Packnett, whose home was uninsured, was still trying to get over the terrifying experience as strangers from across the country rushed to help her with daunting task of clearing out her home, partially collapsed after the storm.
"I didn't have time to figure it out because it was coming quick and then all of a sudden I heard a boom, boom, boom, boom, boom and I just fell to the floor," Packnett said as she described the moment the twister hit her home. "The roof fell in on my head and the rest in on my head, all this other stuff is just hitting me in my head, left and right, then I started looking dizzy and then I had to cover my face like this and I got down in the fetal position."
Packnett was buried beneath the weight of her home as she screamed and prayed for help until a neighbor heard her cries.
"Finally he came and said, "Mama!" and I said, "Yeah baby!" I just heard him throwing things from side to side, just throwing things, and I know my God he delivered me and I thank God so much for delivering me and you know why I didn't die? Because I got a story to tell," Packnett said as she beamed about her faith.
That faith keeps her strong, but because Packnett is uninsured the cleanup looked to be costly, until Limauel Watson, a demolition expert, stepped up to the plate.
"I have somebody that said they would take this house down for free! They're not gonna charge me!" Packnett exclaimed.
"I could hear her in there jumping up and down and screaming and hollering and she came running out the house like, 'Where is he? Where is he?' and I said, 'let me get out of the Bobcat first because if I'm going to get a hug I'm gonna get a good one,'" Watson said.
It's a start to a new beginning, albeit a painful one, but she knows the demolition of her home is a blessing.
"I mean it's usually about $8000 to take the house down," Robin Young with NOLA Tree Project said. "He's just a good guy, a good guy."
For Watson, who hopes to be a significant part of the cleanup process, giving a helping hand is just in his nature.
"I know I'll be blessed with some of these projects. I'll make some money, but this one here, that hug from that lady was better than anything, anything that I could possibly take. Her crying on my shoulder that's tough for me," Watson said.
Through tears, Packnett watched as the home she built for more than two decades crumbled. Her next step is still unknown, but at the initial hard work is done all for the price of a hug.
"I told her this is worth gold to me and what else can you say? I mean you help somebody that can't help themselves and that's the way that it should be. Once everybody joins together and understands that it'll be way better," Watson said.