Paige Hemmis, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: Chapman, Kansas
Last June, a small town in Kansas experienced a devastating loss. While the entire town was going about their daily lives, the unthinkable happened. The town of Chapman was torn apart by a tornado — a phenomenon that the citizens of this town were all but certain this could never occur. Chapman is located in a valley, and experts had predicted that it was near impossible to ever be hit by a tornado. Unfortunately, those experts were wrong.
This week the design team (Ty, Michael, Paul, Ed and Rib) built a house for the Tutwiler family. This is an amazing family who has experienced more tragedy in their young lives than most people will experience their entire lifetimes. Dad, who's only 25 years old, was shot about a year ago while fighting in the military by Iraqi sniper fire. He was shot in the neck — went in through his jaw and out the other side of his neck. Against all odds, he survived and made it home to his family in Chapman, Kansas. Chapman is a few hours outside of Kansas City. They have four young children, and have adopted their 15-year-old nephew. Things were ok for a while — dad was recovering and things were looking up. Then in June of this year, a tornado ripped through their town. Dad put the whole family in a small closet under the stairs and used his body as a human shield. He protected the family, and amazingly, no one was hurt, but when they emerged from the closet, they realized that they had lost everything. Their house was completely destroyed. They were temporarily staying in the military housing on the base, but since he was about to be medically discharged from the army, that meant that they would be out on the street in two weeks. We literally showed up just in time.
So we started by simply building a house for this family, but when we got to Chapman and saw all the devastation from the area, we realized that it was hard to just help one family. There was soooo much destruction that surrounded us. Many homes were completely destroyed, just laying there in rubble. Some people have started to rebuild, but most homes are simply shells, marked on the front with an "x" in red spray paint — saying what day rescue workers came to inspect the house, how many pets were found, how many people were found — both alive and dead. It's completely overwhelming. Trees and power lines are laying destroyed, and the town lacks the familiar sounds of children playing in the street and birds chirping in the trees. I even found a car that had a tree through the metal of the car's body! It shows the power and extent of the storm.
I worked on Hailey's room, and got the opportunity to go back in time and feel like a kid again. Hailey loves pop-up books and stories, so with the help of Gigasor from New York, we built Hailey the biggest pop-up book I've ever seen! It was six feet wide by five feet tall, and included Hailey as the princess, surrounded by her family. It's a story that she can change every single day...and finally get back to the business of simply being a kid again, rather than worrying about where she is going to live.
Since this week was so big, we needed a big builder! We actually needed several builders to pull off an entire town makeover. We had Jeffrey Burton of American Dream Development, Daryll Dunn of AFMC Construction & Remodeling Inc., T-Shane Roberts of Flint Hills Area Builders, John Childs of Harris Custom Homes, Judy and Larry of Blixt Construction, and Archie Ponton of Ponton Construction, Inc.
With this many builders, helping this many families ... we needed a big finish! At the end of the week, we had a special visit from Gavin Rossdale. He sang the song, "Love Remains the Same," which was so fitting for the week. The town has been endured so much, but through everything that they lost, their love for one another remained the same. It still does.