Storm victim recounts time spent in rubble

By Marlena Hartz : Freedom Newspapers

The only thing Shirley Boothe could do was raise her hand and wait.

The 65-year-old Clovis woman was pinned under the roof of her trailer. About 20 feet away, her friend, Walter “Snap” Cravy, was buried beneath pounds of rubble.

The tornado that roared through Clovis on Friday demolished Boothe’s trailer on Oak Street, seriously injured her and critically wounded Cravy.

Boothe said she and Cravy, 90, waited in the dark and cold for about an hour to be rescued, though her memory of that night is fuzzy.

She remembers the windows of her trailer burst, and she and Cravy moved onto the floor for protection. She threw a blanket over her body. Then, her memory goes blank.

She awoke with that blanket still wrapped around her, she said.

“It was raining and it was wet. I moved (the blanket) so I could see the sky and I could raise my hand up to let them know — if I heard someone — that I was there,”

Boothe said Wednesday from her hospital room at University Medical Center in Lubbock.

She called out to her friend. There was no answer. Minutes passed. Finally, she heard him cry out.

Unable to move, they waited until relatives came to their rescue.

Cravey’s granddaughter, Tilynn Pierce of Clovis — who married Boothe’s son — asked her son to check on Boothe and Cravy once she heard a tornado touched down in Clovis.

In the pitch black, Cravy’s great grandson, Colt Cross, 20, and his brother-in-law, combed the wreckage to find Boothe and Cravy.

The light from Cross’ cell phone was the pair’s only guide, Cross said. He noticed Boothe’s hand rising from debris.

“I just stuck my arm up in the arm and wiggled it. I couldn’t holler loud enough for them to hear me,” Boothe remembered.

“It’s just absolutely a miracle,” Boothe said of that night. “I thank God for it. I lost everything,” she said, through tears, “but they found my (Chihuahua) puppy.”

More than 13 tornadoes ripped through eastern New Mexico Friday. A total of 35 people were injured in the storm and treated at a Clovis hospital. One woman, Heleneta Blevins, died Tuesday from injuries sustained in the Clovis tornado.

Boothe said she should be released from the hospital today. She broke her foot and doctors had to put 12 staples in her head to close a gaping wound. She said she doesn’t remember what caused the wound.

Cravy, however, remained in the intensive care unit of Lubbock’s Covenant hospital as of Wednesday.

“He is slowly improving and we’re holding out hope that he may recover,” his eldest son, Thomas Cravy, of California, said Wednesday.

He said his father can talk and breathe on his own.

But his injuries are extensive. The bones in his hands are crushed. A lung is punctured. His ribs, neck, sternum, thigh bone, and arm are broken, and there is a small amount of bleeding in his brain, his son said.

“His family is praying for him, and prayers from the community are greatly desired,” his son wrote Monday in an e-mail to the Clovis News Journal.

Cravy was born in Roswell in 1916 and has been a Clovis resident for 88 of his 90 years. He worked for the railroad and is well known in the area, he son said.

“He is a strong man,” added his granddaughter.