Ten years: Then and Now. Our look at what we learned in the darkness of November 6, 2005. A little boy was sound asleep when he was just four months old, unaware of the chaos around him. Somehow incredibly, he was protected by a crib and a brick wall that were a part of the what was once his home.
“Going back 10 years ago at that moment in time,” said Phil Durcholz, “I didn’t think he would be here.”
Phil Durcholz, a former WEHT photographer, watches his 10-year-old son Christian at soccer practice. A youngster focused on the ball, it is played out millions of times. But in this story, he is doing so as though the darkness of November 6, 2005 never existed.
“Here we have the crib, the brick, and this was on the upper level,” said Dawn Durcholz. “And this is his room from the outside yes where the wall fell down on the baby bed.”
Phil and Dawn Durcholz had tucked their three children in bed just hours before the monster hit. Their Newburgh hit point blank. Nolan was 6, Ellie was 3, and then there Christian, just four months on this Earth.
“I had a bedroom downstairs, and I woke up to all of these crashing noises,” said Nolan. “And we had this little closet in my room where I would go to draw pictures on the walls. We all stayed in there, and when we realized we forgot Christian upstairs. And my dad ran up there. I was thinking this is my time to be the man of the house, so I have to comfort mom. So, I need to keep mom calm.”
“So, I say ‘Where’s the baby,'” said Phil. “It was mayhem. Didn’t really know what happened. I knew I had to get there, and I started running up the stairs. And they were filled with patio furniture bricks, windows, you name it. And it had filled that stairwell. I remember running up those stairs. I saw there was no roof, and I reached his room. A brick wall had fallen and smashed his crib, and I knew it had to be bad.”
“He lifted that wall literally with his shoulder,” said Dawn. “He reached Christian and lifting him out, and I remember the next day it took eight guys to move that wall.”
The family stayed put, building their new home in the same spot, returning to a new home six months later. But this is not a story of brick and mortar. It’s a love story, a story cruel selection from a storm that took so many lives. The tornado appeared to step aside on it’s destructive path in Newburgh.
Although neighborhoods were devastated, there were no deaths. For Phil Durcholz, among the chaos, there was some comfort.
“The house was blown apart,” said Phil.”All the pictures on the walls were gone, but every single crucifix was still in the house, not moved.”
And those kids, Christian cannot remember of course, but Ellie and Nolan do. They have grown closer. The storm in some ways made them grow up so quickly.
“It’s very important to me,” said Ellie. “Some people don’t have families. Mine is very special.”
“As he’s grown older,” said Nolan, “looking back if i had lost him, I don’t know what I would have done.”
“He’s a sweet boy,” said Ellie. “Can get on my nerves sometimes, but that goes with it.”
“He has changed my life in major ways,” said Nolan.
“This was actually a mural that was painted on the wall in his room,” said Phil. “And this wood was part of his crib, and we knew this had to be part of the decorations in his room”
“I don’t honestly know if any of that would be possible without somebody watching over us,” said Nolan.