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Tornado victims tell of survival

John (left) and Judy Schuck, above, stand in front of their family's 103-year-old farm house Tuesday morning in rural Lyon County. The home was to be torn down later that afternoon.1 / 2
Words on the kitchen wall in the Schuck home tell the tale of a house filled with memories.2 / 2

SIBLEY, Iowa -- Words on a wall inside the kitchen of John and Judy Schuck's rural Sibley home seem to say it all.

"Home is where your story begins."

For John, saying those words aloud Tuesday morning brought a catch to his voice and a hand to his eyes.

Later in the day, the home that had served four generations of the Schuck family was coming down. At 103 years old, the damage from Friday night's tornado was just too much to overcome.

It was the only home John had ever known in his 66 years. His parents moved out and his wife moved in after they were married 47 years ago. They raised their family there, and it was a haven for the grandchildren who loved to visit.

Even the grandkids are having a tough time seeing the farm as it is today --in ruins.

Grandson Colin Sandbulte, 16, sat atop a dirt mound Tuesday morning and watched as heavy equipment piled debris and straw bales into a hole -- remnants of the Schuck barn, sheep shed and machine sheds. Earlier, he told his grandma, "This sucks -- this just sucks."

Century farm lost

John's grandparents purchased the farm in Section 12, Grant Township, in 1900. By 1903, the two-story, five bedroom farmhouse was complete.

The house wasn't just a house made of wood, plaster and nails, but a home filled with memories. That's the hardest part about saying goodbye, but it had to be done. The house was going to be torn down Tuesday afternoon, and the Schucks planned to be there for it.

"We're going to be crying, but we'll be here," said Judy.

"I don't want to be, but I will," added John.

Standing in the middle of the farm yard, facing the large white, square farmhouse, John was overcome with emotion.

"It feels like I've lost," he said with his voice trailing off.

"It's like a death, it really is," interjected Judy.

"In a way it is," said John. "It's not a house. It's a home where I raised my family, and I grew up here. Now, our grandkids love to come home here.

"But, we're going to make a new home and make new memories somewhere along the line," he added. "Life goes on. This ain't going to get us."

The Schucks have yet to decide what they're going to do. For now, they're staying with their daughter and her family.

"Colin said, 'Grandpa better build something right here, because this is where I want to come,'" shared Judy.

"This farm is where they come to have fun with Grandpa and Grandma," added John. "If there's a different house here, they'll get used to it."

"Our land is here," Judy added.

Surviving the storm

Judy said she pulled into the farm yard and parked the car in the garage shortly after 9:30 p.m. Friday. Within 20 minutes, John, too, had pulled into the yard. By then, he could see a large black funnel cloud descending from the sky, so he went into the house and told his wife there was some bad weather coming.

Within another five minutes, the wind came up, and they heard cracking and creaking.

"I was by the picture windows going, 'What is that?'" shared Judy. "All of a sudden, something really hit the house. I tore out of there and said, 'We've got to get to the basement.'"

"By the time we got to the bottom of the steps, our ears popped just terrible," added John. "Then I heard such a terrible noise, and I think that's probably when the roof went off. We went to a corner of the basement and hugged each other for a few minutes."

"I said, 'We're going to die, we're going to die,' and then it was over," Judy said.

When it was all over, John had to coax Judy back out of the basement. They walked over leaves as they headed up the steps, and then found their four-year-old garage was gone.

The couple walked through their home to survey the damage, and when they reached the top step to the second floor of their home, they noticed the attic door swinging open.

John said he took the flashlight, stepped through the doorway and shined the light up to find the darkened sky -- the roof was completely gone.

Time to say thanks

Within five minutes after the storm passed Friday night, the Schucks were visited by Sibley firefighters checking to make sure they were OK and helping them maneuver over tree limbs, broken glass and an unbelievable amount of debris.

Family soon arrived, and by Saturday, more than 50 volunteers had come to the aid of the family. Even more came on Sunday, said Judy, adding that at least 150 people were served lunch that day.

"We want to thank the people that all came to help us out -- to clean our house out," said John.

"There's people you don't know that came to help," added Judy. "There's no way you can thank these people. They just say, 'We hope you don't have to return the favor.'"

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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