“I didn’t want to die”: woman recalls being pinned under tree, brick wall during Calhoun Co. storms

Calhoun County woman recalls entrapment, rescue

CALHOUN COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - Brittany Varner says when the storms came through Calhoun County Saturday night, they knocked over a large, dead tree in her front yard.

The tree fell on her house, on Saxston Road in Saks, not far from the Anniston city limits. In fact, some beams and a brick wall landed on her.

Varner was talking on the phone to her mother in North Carolina, telling her the weather in Alabama was bad, but the family was okay.

“And I had no more said that, (when) the tree fell,” Varner recalled to WBRC.

“My phone was in my hand when I was pinned. I couldn’t get my fingers to dial 911, I couldn’t get my thumb up to the one,” she says.

She called her mother back instead. She says her husband had tried to get their daughter to safety, but was himself knocked unconscious for a few minutes.

She has no idea who made that call, but eventually some neighbors, an off-duty Anniston police officer, and Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade were in her home, trying to pull her out of the rubble.

At one point the Anniston police officer moved one of the heavy beams by himself.

“How he did that, I don’t know,” she says.

We asked her what was going through her mind at the time.

'I didn’t want to die. I have a five year old. And I just wanted to make it out, and make sure she was fine. I owe a lot to the guys who got me out, my husband, if it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know that I could have stayed calm enough 'til they got there," she recalls.

Varner was taken to Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center in Anniston, where she was later released. Doctors found no broken bones, but a bruise was visible on her forehead as reporters spoke to her Monday.

All of this happened just days after she had surgery on her stomach, and that’s why she was sitting in bed, with her legs crossed, when the storm hit. She says she and her husband had moved their bedrooms shortly before the storm hit because they thought the tree would fall into the house, but in a different direction.

In addition to her home being destroyed, Varner says her trampoline was sent across her back yard and wrapped around a lawn mower tractor, and a Hula-Hoop that was on her front porch ended up in the top of a tree.

EMA director Michael Barton says the straight line winds knocked down some 90 trees, and fell on about a few homes. He says seven became unlivable and one--presumably the Varner residence--was destroyed.

Varner says a lot of people she knew and didn’t know, later came to cut up the tree. Her yard and an adjacent church parking lot were full of people, she says.

She doesn’t yet know where her family will live, though they have a place to stay for the immediate future.

“I’m blessed,” she says.

Copyright 2020 WBRC. All rights reserved.