MONETTE, Ark. (NewsNation Now) — A 94-year-old man was killed inside a rural Arkansas nursing home, one of just two people to lose their lives in the state after tornadoes tore through the region.
At the height of the storm Friday, elderly residents at Monette Manor were quickly moved to shelter. Golden Hembrey, a Korean war veteran and COVID survivor, was in a hallway when the roof caved in.
“He’d talk a little bit about his service, but not much,” said Jimmie Hembrey, Golden’s brother. “He wouldn’t talk about it unless you would just bring it up.”
Jimmie Hembrey, 82, said he raced to the nursing home through swirling debris before finding out his brother did not survive the storm.
“He come back and he said, ’Golden didn’t make it,'” said Michael Hembrey, the victim’s nephew. “We said ‘What?’ He said it again … and he went to crying.”
On Sunday, the nursing home was surrounded by workers cleaning up, many of them volunteers. Some say they’re wondering how anyone survived.
“Wheelchairs out in the street, in the road, in the ditch … It hurts to see the nursing home like that,” said Matthew Benavides, a volunteer. “It’s painful to watch something like that.”
Only five people were injured at the nursing home. Staff used their bodies as human shields Friday night to protect residents from the deadly tornado.
By Sunday evening, some displaced residents were back with their families. Others had been moved to other nursing homes in the area.
The co-owner of the Monette Manor nursing home is now talking about how to rebuild.
“It’s been a part of the community for many many many years, and we can’t even think about it not being,”
said Rick Sampson. “When you go through the building and look at it, you’re just so thankful. You hate it that there was one, but you’re grateful that you only had one.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency for the area.
“Probably the most remarkable thing is there’s not a greater loss of life,” Hutchinson said.
52-year-old June Pennington died when the storm hit a Dollar General store in nearby Leachville. Pennington worked as the assistant manager of the store.