WAKEFIELD — The Dorcey family was together five years ago when a tornado ripped across their acreage and tore the roof off of their home.
They huddled together in the basement, praying the rosary until the sounds of destruction stopped.
Then the six family members waited a little bit longer.
They ventured upstairs after they heard a neighbor come inside and ask if everyone was OK.
Everyone — Shannon and Jean Dorcey and their four children — was.
The family homestead 2 miles east of Wakefield was another story, though. The roof had been ripped off of the house, the shed was gone, the trees were uprooted or badly damaged and the windows on all of the vehicles had blown out.
The newly installed basketball hoop — a birthday gift for 16-year-old Danika — had disappeared, and there was even a trampoline in a tree.
When the family came up from the basement, they saw a tree branch had punched through the kitchen roof above their cupboards. Windows on three sides of their house — all but the north side — were all broken out.
And then they noticed something very weird.
“Before this had happened, Jacob (then 13) had taken a baseball bat and put a baseball on it and set it upright in the living room. And when we came upstairs from the tornado, it was still up. The ball was still balanced on it,” Jean Dorcey said.
“The windows were broken, the tree branch was in the house, but that bat and ball were still standing. It was crazy,” Danika added.
Although the roof and joists were badly damaged, the house was still standing, and most of the contents hadn’t been affected.
“There was a huge uprooted tree on one side of the house, and the shed was gone on the other side of the house. How does that happen that the house was just fine in the middle of them?” Danika asked.
“It took about three years to get back to where we were, by the time we were set again,” Shannon Dorcey said.
A lot of that recovery time was getting a replacement shed built. Construction on the original shed had just been completed, and there was no insurance on it yet.
“The insurance company had said don’t bother covering it until it was built, because they said the contractors would cover it,” Jean Dorcey said.
It took awhile to get a new shed built — which Shannon Dorcey uses to store equipment for his business, Dorcey Electric.
“The most major thing was getting the roof on the house. We also had to build a new porch. Then we framed up the shed and had a company put the roof on. Just to get that framed probably took about a year to get done,” Shannon Dorcey said.
Another big expense was fixing the vehicles. Unfortunately, the Dorceys had liability insurance on them at that time, so everything was out-of-pocket.
Nearly all of the trees on the acreage had been destroyed or badly damaged, and some blocked the way to the Dorceys’ family vehicle.
“That first night, the big thing was getting to our vehicle and getting all the trees cleared away from it so we could stay over at my brother’s house in Wayne,” Shannon Dorcey said.
The family did have help that first day and beyond. In fact, some of the Dorceys’ friends who were in Wakefield had seen the tornado rip through the area, so they came over right away and set to work.
“Church groups had made sure food came out, and they fed us and made sure everything was OK. ... Nearly New (a secondhand shop in Wakefield) was really good about getting us clothing and anything we needed,” Jean Dorcey said.
Tower School in Wayne was holding summer classes at the time, and students came and helped out with cleanup and recovery efforts for a day as well, she said.
The area communities helped out in other ways as well. An anonymous donation was made to Miller Building Supply in Wakefield to help the Dorceys get supplies, and a bank in Pender offered a no-interest loan to help tornado victims.
“Mainly I’d say it was faith and praying that got us through,” Danika said.
“Yes, faith and family and friends. And even just strangers that would come out and help, good people,” Jean Dorcey added.