Home / National News / Ill. Tornado Survivor: ‘I Really Don’t Know Where to Go from Here’


(WASHINGTON, Ill.) — As Kris Lancaster stood outside his home in Washington, Ill., Sunday, watching the destruction tornadoes and severe storms had wreaked on his town, he never thought his own life would be in danger in just seconds.

“I was feeling devastated watching it tear up the neighborhood as it came to me and I actually thought it was going to curve and at the last second it didn’t curve,” Lancaster said Monday on ABC’s Good Morning America.  “I took off running, trying to get in and watched my whole house just vanish around me as it was flying by me as I’m trying to get to the steps.”

Lancaster, a sound engineer, had been filming the tornadoes’ destruction while his wife, Mandy, huddled in the basement with the couple’s three children — ages 4, 14, and 19 — their 5-month-old godchild and two 14-year-old nieces.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Mandy Lancaster said.  “I couldn’t hear or see anything.  We lost our power and everything.  It was scary.”

Up above, her husband was getting hit by flying debris.

“The refrigerator backed me into the other room, and finally, I jumped to the stairs,” Kris said.  “I don’t know how I did it but I got to the stairs and fell down them and my 19-year-old son pulled me down and pulled me into the safety, into the backroom in the basement.”

After the storm passed Kris was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he was treated for injuries from the debris, including a piece that hit him in the eye.

“I’m a little sore. I’m a little beat up,” he said. “[I’m] still in shock of all this happening. I really don’t know where to go from here.”

The Lancasters’ home was demolished, leaving them homeless and relying on the help of a local church for food.

“It was the home that we worked so hard through our lives to get…better neighborhood, a better town, a better school district, everything,” Kris said.  “We’ve only lived here two years, and now our dream house is gone.”

The Lancasters’ hometown of Washington, a rural community of about 16,000, appeared to have been one of the hardest hit in a huge storm system that tore across Illinois around noon Sunday, causing widespread damage and forcing officials to evacuate the crowd of about 60,000 at Chicago’s Soldier Field during a Bears football game.

In Washington, rows of homes were completely flattened, trees uprooted and cars turned upside down.  The town’s mayor, Gary Manier, was in church when the tornado ripped through, and he sprang into action to usher people to safety.

“I was in church and I actually had our worshippers go to the basement, and I’m sure some of them probably thought I was off my rocker, but you know, a lot of times churches don’t necessarily do tornado drills and fire drills like schools and businesses,” Manier told ABC News Radio.

In a news release, the Illinois National Guard said it had dispatched 10 firefighters and three vehicles to Washington to assist with “immediate search and recovery operations in the tornado damaged area.”

The Lancasters said that, despite the devastation, they plan to stay in the town they moved to two years ago in pursuit of a better life.

“We’re going to try and rebuild,” Kris said. “Try and get our same spot on our same property and try and rebuild and carry on with our lives.”

Kris had planned to hold a concert next Wednesday as a Thanksgiving benefit but all of his music equipment and sound gear were lost in the storm.  He said he hopes to hold the concert anyway in a few weeks, and has offered his Facebook page as a destination for people who want to help families like his who lost everything Sunday.

“Thanks for everybody out there giving us support of the area and support of the neighborhood and the town,” he said.  “We need it.  We need anything that anybody can send this way.  We need all the help we can get in this town.”

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