ALAMO — Romeo Maldonado hugged his wife, attempting to calm her down as wind gathered and rain poured down. Moments later, the wind grew into a fierce gust, ripping apart the roof over their heads as their five children slept early Tuesday morning.
Maldonado rushed to get his wife and five children to safety, waiting out the storm in their truck. In the haze of the downpour, taking the keys and holding up inside the vehicle was the only thing they could do.
The family described the ordeal in terrifying detail Tuesday afternoon, explaining that the violent crackle of lightning and sheer force of the wind ripped pieces of their home apart in the wee hours of the morning. It was unlike anything they experienced before.
It was like a loud boom, a neighbor said.
Maldonado has lived with his family for about a year and three months in the trailer home, he said in Spanish, while his neighbor and South Texas College student Jesus Hurtado, 19, acted as a translator. Hurtado and his mother helped the neighboring family clean the debris and provided containers.
The American Red Cross and a government entity provided assistance, offering blankets and clothes and other necessities, Hurtado said.
On his way to school, the STC student said he saw the ruined home and offered to help his neighbors after coming back. Although his family doesn’t have much money, they are doing what they can to help, he said.
Luckily, the Maldonado family made it out with no serious injuries.
“Physically it was just a few bumps and bruises,” Maldonado said. But his wife is worried they “lost everything.” However all of that can be replaced, he said, adding “his family is the most important thing.”
Maldonado has lived in the United States for about 16 years and staying strong for his kids is pushing him forward. Although he doesn’t like to receive help, he is “putting his pride aside and doing it for his family now,” he said.
But even with his life and his family in danger, he was worried about the safety of his neighbors, many living in small houses that were also at risk, Maldonado said.
Electronics and other everyday items were ruined with water damage and blunt trauma. And with the degree of destruction, he hasn’t been able to fully check what is left. Still, he managed to laugh and crack a smile when speaking about ihs wet shoes.
Maldonado believes that although his home has collapsed, his family will rise like a phoenix.
“They burn, but they rise from the ashes,” he said in Spanish.
Community members soon came to his help, with neighbors offering to donate clothes for his five children, who are all under the age of 10 — one still a toddler.
At one point, the blast of the wind almost ripped the children’s cradle from the ground, Maldonado said.
Hurtado said the family is going to stay in a hotel for about a week and will be charged about $300 for lodging, adding he hopes the family soon finds other alternatives.
Maldonado hasn’t been able to work due to a recent accident and making a living has become more difficult, Hurtado said.
Scattered across the remnants of what was once their home were chunks of insulation, a loaf of bread, religious items, and an aluminum shard torn from the roof dangling from nearby electrical wiring. Maldonado said he is still “in shock” of how far the wind carried parts of his roof.
“Whatever he needs, we’re here, and we’re gonna help him with the cleanup and everything…” Hurtado said. “If something like that happened to us, we would want … somebody to help us. (So) we’re doing the same thing.”