5-year-old child shares Christís love after losing parents in April 27, 2011, tornadoescomment (0)
May 24, 2012
By Julie Payne
The message he brings to people is overwhelming,” Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, and member of First Baptist Church, Red Bay, said. He was referring to one special little boy in his district whose story has touched many lives — Morrow’s included — since April 27, 2011.
Garrett LeClere, 5 years old at the time, was home with his family members in Phil Campbell on April 27 — the day a massive EF5 tornado descended on the town.
As the tornado neared Garrett’s house, his parents Amy and Jay LeClere quickly moved Garrett and his sister, Marisa McCormick, into a bathtub where Marisa proceeded to shield Garrett’s body. The tornado separated the siblings and threw them more than 100 yards from the house.
Jeff McCormick, Marisa’s father and Amy LeClere’s ex-husband, located Marisa first. She had been transported to Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield with injuries.
More searching ensued and McCormick found that Garrett had been transported to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham with a cerebral hematoma, broken left wrist and broken right elbow. After discovering the news that Amy and Jay LeClere were killed in the storm, McCormick knew he had some tough news to deliver to young Garrett.
McCormick, who along with wife Stacey, took legal custody of Garrett after the tornado, recalls sitting Garrett down and beginning the difficult conversation. Garrett began by telling McCormick he remembered falling down and hurting his arms.
Then McCormick gently transitioned into the news about Garrett’s parents. As he relayed that the LeCleres did not make it out of the storm alive, Garrett said, “Yeah, I know.”
Instead of “breaking down” at the news, McCormick said he was surprised to watch as Garrett shed just a single tear.
“Well, they’re in heaven,” McCormick proceeded to say.
“I know,” Garrett again replied.
“How do you know?” McCormick asked.
“Jesus told me,” Garrett remarked.
McCormick was speechless. He said the spiritual knowledge Garrett demonstrated during the conversation shocked him. “The thing is, Garrett had never been raised in the church,” McCormick explained. “Out of him, it floored me … there was nothing I could say.”
It was not long before Morrow spotted the boy’s miraculous story of survival on WHNT News 19’s “Faith: After the Storm” report.
In late February, he invited Garrett and McCormick to join him as special guests at the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) Legislative Prayer Breakfast in Montgomery — a weekly event during the regular state legislative session each year — and tour the state Capitol.
Morrow recalled how well Garrett articulated his thoughts when speaking one-on-one with people throughout the visit. “It was very amazing,” Morrow shared. “I don’t think I’ve experienced anything quite like it.”
During the prayer breakfast, ALCAP Executive Director Joe Godfrey presented the news segment about Garrett to the crowd of about 50.
“We were honored to have him [Garrett] … at our prayer breakfast,” Godfrey reflected. “He was quite a fascinating young man. We certainly rejoice, in that his story … demonstrates the truthfulness of Romans 8:28.”
Morrow shared that some legislators in attendance that morning said Garrett was “anointed,” and others said there was not a “dry eye in the house” among attendees.
And Garrett’s lasting impression on people extended far beyond the prayer breakfast. As the group continued their tour in Montgomery, Garrett took opportunities to talk to people he encountered.
One of those people was Brandy Allen, assistant supervisor and committee clerk at the House of Representatives, whose office is adjacent to Morrow’s.
During her conversation with Garrett, Allen relayed how sorry she was that Garrett had lost his parents and shared that she had lost “someone close” to her as well. She had lost her brother at a young age.
About an hour later, Garrett asked the group which person had talked about losing someone. Allen responded and what happened next took her by total surprise.
“[Garrett] walked over and said, ‘Well, he’s right here when you don’t know it, giving you hugs,’” she recounted. “It was a ‘God-wink’ to me.”
Morrow added, “I think a lot of people in Montgomery benefitted spiritually by meeting Garrett, and that’s what I’m grateful for.”
But it isn’t just the state legislators who have benefitted.
McCormick said his own faith has “really grown” since Garrett permanently entered their lives. Garrett also has shared his story at Grace Baptist Church, Russellville, where the family attends church.
“God was able to reach [Garrett] and his surviving family members through this experience,” Godfrey said. “God can take a tragedy and bring good from it — it’s always a wonderful story.”