10 Years of Recovery: Mother Remembers Cowering with Family, Unborn Daughter
At nine months pregnant, Sarah Miesse and her entire family gathered at her parents’ home in the center of Tuscaloosa to brace for the storm headed right for them.
“April 27, 2011, is definitely a day that is going to stick with me for the rest of my lifetime,” Miesse said. “I was expecting my first child. She was due a week from that time on April 27.”
Miesse, her 80-year-old grandparents, father, mother, husband and their two Jack Russell terriers crowded into the hallway.
“It almost felt like the house just picked up and shifted,” she said. “I just started praying out loud. So many thoughts were going through my mind. I did feel a peace come over me, which I was so thankful for. I was not sure if we were going to make it.”
It’s that uncertainty and the everlasting thoughts of what could have happened that Miesse said she still struggles with even 10 years later.
“That definitely caused me the most harm,” she said. “I think it caused me years and years of trying to heal from it, adding in the component of being someone who is expecting a child so close.”
But they all made it, including Miesse’s then-unborn girl.
“I did not care about anything other than her,” Miesse said. “I felt her kicking and that made me feel really good.”
Several days later at Northport Medical Center, Miesse and her husband Seth were blessed with a healthy 8-pound 5-ounce baby girl they named Eileen Madisyn Miesse.
“She has her daddy’s nose,” Miesse said in 2011, just hours after giving birth. “I love it. I’ll tell her she is a miracle baby and that she was a survivor even before she was here.”
That’s a message Sarah Miesse still makes sure her daughter hears today.
“This is Eileen,” Sarah said, introducing her almost 10-year-old daughter. “We call her Eila for short. Although some people at the TV station called her Stormie.”
Miesse said it was the most surreal feeling to give birth amid such tragedy.
Today, Eila is your typical fourth-grader. But how many 9-year-olds do you know who are weather aware?
WVUA 23’s Chelsea Barton asked Eila what comes to her mind when she sees a photo of the destroyed home her mother and their family survived in during the storm.
“The houses on the pictures mom showed me, they were just piles of bricks and wood,” Eila said. “It’s just weird to see that. It’s just surprising that anyone could survive that, and I did.”
Meisse said Eila swears that’s why she was two weeks late.
“I didn’t want to (come out),” Eila said. “I just sat there. I am going to stay here. Give me one more week.”
As devastating as the storm was, the Miesses like to focus on positive things that came from that day, like weather alertness and mental health awareness.
A lot has changed for the Miesses over the last decade. Their family has grown, they’ve changed homes and even taken new jobs. But they still believe in miracles just like they did 10 years ago.
“Live every moment and know that there are angels that look over us and that tragedies happen but good can come out of it,” Miesse said.