NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The Caddo museum is gone. The grass house blown to the wind. Vehicles toppled like in child’s play.
CC Conn, the treasurer for Friends of Caddo experienced the tornado that hit Saturday morning at the historic site on Highway 21, west of Alto.
“I felt a little pressure in my ears like you do on an airplane,” described Conn. “And when I felt that the second time I threw everything I was doing into a drawer and did what I was trained to do when I was little. Got down and tucked my head under.”
Jouse Gonzales, a SFA graduate student, was outside when others motioned him inside the museum as the weather worsened.
Seconds later, "It collapsed all at once. And just as it began it was over. One or two seconds, it was done," said Gonzalez.
Long enough for his military training to pay off.
“I guess it just kicked in. People screaming for help. People were stuck under the rubble,” Gonzales said.
“When the sounds quit happening, when the falling quit happening, I dug myself out of there,” said Conn, who came away with a scratch and sore back.
“Everybody that was able to pull stuff started pulling things off. People looking for people," she said.
“Calling for their names. Just anything to get a response,” recalled Gonzalez.
Caddo women who are nurses set up a triage.
“There was panic, and then it was very amazing how everybody starts working together when something like that happens,” said Gonzalez.
Archaeologist Victor Galan was critically injured with neck and spinal injuries while ushering others into the museum.
Victor’s wife, assistant Caddo Mounds director Rachel Galan, never left his side.
“And I was sitting there holding Rachel’s hand and waiting. We just waited. It was just so long to wait for help,” said Conn.
“It was approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours. They could not get through the trees that had fallen. It was a long wait, but once they got there it was amazing to see six helicopters come down, and we had 40-50 plus emergency vehicles show up, 20 ambulances, state troopers, firefighters, and volunteers,” said Gonzalez.
A bond developed like no other between those there.
“I don’t even know who all those sixty people are, but I feel like I would connect with them in a heartbeat,” said Conn.
Gonzales added, “We all helped. We all put in our best effort in saving everybody.”
The East Texas Cultural Alliance has set up a GoFundMe account to support Victor & Rachel Galan.
While leaders look ahead to a long road of recovery, they’re thankful the museum and the lives of those affected can be rebuilt.