One couple recounts their experience the night the tornado hit in Chattanooga – Chattanooga Times Free Press

Posted By on April 19, 2020

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 5:18 p.m. on Saturday, April 18, 2020, to state that the Loceys are Messianic Jews. A previous version incorrectly stated Hasidic Jews.

Neyla Locey and her husband, Robert Locey, were just headed to bed a little after 11 p.m. on Easter Sunday.

The television was off, phones silenced. Their adult son was already asleep across the hall. Whether they had lost power at that point yet, they don't recall it was bedtime.

They had no idea what was coming.

The Loceys have lived for more than 20 years on Holly Crest Drive in the Holly Hills subdivision, one of the areas in East Brainerd worst hit by Sunday night's tornadoes that ravaged Chattanooga and the Southeast.

Whether they received alerts or not, Neyla Locey isn't sure.

(READ MORE: How a deadly tornado snuck up on some Hamilton County residents, not others)

"We had just gotten into bed. It was 11:25 when we felt the whole house shake," she said. "We kept watching the news earlier in the evening, but there was nothing that said there was a tornado. We never heard an alarm."

In the dark, they rushed out of their upstairs bedroom and pounded on their son's door to wake him up. They headed toward the basement, but they never made it. Neyla Locey said she thought of her neighbors, but there was no way to warn anyone else.

The couple huddled together on the staircase, their arms wrapped over each other, as their attic collapsed on top of them a blessing in hindsight, because it shielded them from the tornado's deadly winds.

"Honestly, we are happy," Robert Locey said Tuesday. "We are all alive."

Messianic Jews, they had recently begun celebrating Passover, and Neyla Locey thought a lot about the origin story of Passover after the storm.

"Some think Passover is just celebrating nothing bad happening," Neyla Locey explained. "But the plagues still happened. God shielded them from that. That's what it felt like that night, that God had put his hands over us to shield us and the storm passed over. It was incredible."

The day after the storm, one of the Loceys' neighbors asked if they bowled. Robert Locey told him they did.

"'I've got something of yours then,'" the neighbor said.

Robert Locey's 25-pound bowling ball had ended up across the neighborhood, in the man's back yard.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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One couple recounts their experience the night the tornado hit in Chattanooga - Chattanooga Times Free Press

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