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Family safe after tree comes crashing down

Hailey and Brady Wilson point to where a tree had punched through into their house. Photo by Phil Custodio. (click for larger version)
June 30, 2010 - When the Wilson family posted a sign "This house believes" every Christmas, it used to refer to Santa Claus.

It means more now.

"It means miracles – we believe in miracles," said Amy Wilson, who was home with her husband Greg and their children Hailey, Abby, and Brady during a storm, June 18.

At about 9:30 p.m. that evening, storm sirens went off, and Greg and Amy sent their children down to the basement at their Holcomb Road home. By 10 p.m., sirens were off.

"It felt safe," Amy said. "The kids came up from the basement and got ready for bed. I thought the coast was clear. Then all hell broke loose."

"I thought a train came through the roof," said Brady, 10, who was in his upstairs bedroom. "Then I thought it was an earthquake."

A fully mature front-yard tree had fallen on the house during a full downpour, driving its branches through the front porch and upstairs bedrooms.

"I thought we were going to fall through the floor," said Hailey, 16, who was in her room with a couple friends and her sister, Abby, 12. "I could feel the floor bowing in, giving a huge shake, glass plates flying through the air. We grabbed each other – it felt like we were about to fall into the kitchen."

Abby's room took a direct hit.

"She was being a slowpoke about getting ready for bed, but it was good she was," Amy said. "A branch went through her bed. She crumpled to her knees when she saw it."

Another part of the tree hit the den. Water started rushing in, and the family grabbed as much as they could and threw it into another room.

"It felt like a plane hit the house," Amy said. "Thankfully no one was hurt."

The house quickly filled with emergency responders, who worked through the night to save it. Police shut down power, and workers set up floodlights outside.

"It looked like a movie set, with all the lights," Amy said. "Steve Ronk (Independence Township Fire Department chief) was amazing. He kept us calm. Dennis Ritter (Clarkston city manager) was there, and it was after midnight. Clarkston Tree Service was phenomenal. They worked for two hours to get the tree off the roof. Montgomery and Sons (repair service) was great."

They are looking at 3-6 months of repair work. With the home's historic status, they are hoping for a full restoration.

Their home is almost 100 years old. Midwife Mary "Grandma" Green, lived there, and it was a place mothers would go when it was time to give birth.

"This will be one of the many stories this birthing house has," Amy said.

The family recently completed restoration work on its front porch, much of which was destroyed by the tree.

"All that hard work, but it's just things – they can be replaced," Amy said.

"Friends are pouring out of the woodwork to help. We're living in a rented house, but we'll check on it every day and move back when it's restored."

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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