"I was eating insulation and wood thinking I don’t think I’m going to survive this," Lauren Neal said of the tornado

By Joelle Goldstein
March 06, 2020 04:27 PM

A mother is recalling the harrowing moments that she watched her daughter get swept away by the Tennessee tornado, only to learn she miraculously survived the dramatic ordeal and landed in her neighbor’s pool.

Lauren Neal said her daughter is lucky to be alive after the teen was ripped from her bedroom amid the powerful storm early Tuesday morning and thrown next door, getting covered in debris along the way.

“She’s alive. My neighbors got her out,” the Cookeville mother told CBS affiliate WTVF of her teenage daughter. “My neighbors got her out.”

Miraculously, the teen only suffered minor injuries — but Neal admitted to the outlet that this was far from what she expected as a result of the deadly storm.

The terrifying events started early Tuesday, with Neal receiving a tornado warning on her phone and getting out of bed to wake up her daughter, who suffers from hearing problems, WTVF reported.

As she was on her way to alert the teen, Neal’s front door slammed open and hit her, preventing her from reaching her daughter.

“My daughter was in her room and she has hearing problems and wasn’t wearing her hearing aide,” Neal recalled to WTVF. “I had to yell really loud. She can hear, but not really well.”

Though she was successful in waking up her daughter, Neal said she was unable to get to her before the storm took control.

“She sat up and next thing you know I was looking at her face and the whole front of her house was gone and a door came and hit me and I was holding that door while getting hit with everything,” she told the outlet through tears.

“I was eating insulation and wood, thinking I don’t think I’m going to survive this,” Neal added.

While Neal was getting battered by debris, she watched her daughter get swept away by the winds, according to WTVF.

tornadoes in Cookeville, Tennessee
Debris from the tornado
| Credit: Brett Carlsen/Getty

But the teen wasn’t the only one who was picked up by the storm and carried to another location. Neal was also ripped from the home and somehow landed on top of her roof, sitting beside all the rubble, the outlet reported.

Her dog was with her, sitting her on her lap, but sadly died shortly after, according to WTVF.

Despite the traumatic ordeal, Neal said she was feeling fortunate to live in such a supportive community, where neighbors have already banded together in the days since to clear the mess on her property and gather what’s left of her belongings.

“The community is amazing because I’ve never had to deal with something like this,” Neal told WTVF.

Above all, the Cookeville mom is just grateful to be alive with her daughter and her boyfriend.

“There’s not words other than ‘Thank you’ but they’re not enough,” she added.

RELATED VIDEO: Tennessee Tornadoes Kill at Least 19 and Flatten Over 40 Buildings in Downtown Nashville

While Neal and her family were part of the lucky ones, there were many others who lost their lives in the storm.

Twenty-four people, including at least five young children, died in the storms, which hit Nashville and surrounding counties like Putnam early Tuesday morning, CNN reported.

The first tornado was reported Tuesday around 12:38 a.m. CST, moving east about 45 mph, the National Weather Service said. Two more touched down in Putnam County, 80 miles east of Nashville.

In downtown Nashville alone, about 40 buildings collapsed, the Nashville Fire Department said. Schools, businesses and one popular concert venue were all reduced to rubble. Other areas that have reported damage include Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, and Germantown.

In response to the devastation, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency and sent the National Guard to assist with search-and-rescue efforts, the Associated Press reported.

“Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated,” Mayor John Cooper tweeted following the destruction. “Be sure to lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need, and let’s come together as a community once more.”