Zunmas went to turn on his T.V. to get a better idea of the path of the storm, but it wasn’t working.
“As I was going towards the kitchen to see if I have a spare battery or something, then I looked up from my back door and windows in the back and saw how the trees were moving violently. So I knew that that was not normal,” he said.
Zunmas said he immediately ran to the safest room of his house - an interior laundry room. Once inside, he heard a loud bang and the sound of the glass of his windows shattering. When everything was quiet, he came out.
“The first thing I noticed - there was no roof,” he said. The house’s back wall had collapsed on his breakfast table; his three-car garage was compressed, and leaning on his bedroom closet.
The church, he said, looked like someone “took something and scratched it all off.” Most of the windows were blown out; part of the roof was gone. The priest said he’s still not sure if the $4 million new building sustained any structural damage.
“And then the house is almost a $400,000 home, and it's a total write-off,” he added.
But that wasn’t what went through his mind as he first emerged from his laundry room.
“My first prayer was a prayer of thanksgiving. I thanked God that I was alive,” he said. Since hearing of the two deaths from the storm, Zunmas added, he has also been praying for their souls.
After the storm, Zunmas said, he received calls and texts from concerned parishioners who saw the tornado heading for the church.
Among them were Paul and Kathie Westerman, parishioners of Holy Cross for about eight years. The Westermans live about 15 miles south of town, and they worried as they saw the tornado form and head toward the church. They called Father Zunmas immediately after it stopped.
“We called to see how he was, and his first words were, ‘I'm alive,’” Paul told CNA.
The Westermans said they could not drive to the church that night - all surrounding roads were blocked due to downed power lines. But they came two days in a row to help out and to support their pastor.
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“We just ran over and gave him a big hug and said, ‘Thank God, he's alive,’” Kathie said.
A hug “in the time of coronavirus!” Fr. Zumnas added.
“I don’t care, he’s alive,” Kathie said.
On Friday, the Westermans and other clean-up crews were helping to clean out the debris, salvage furniture from the rectory, and cover the part of the church where the roof was torn off to prevent it from getting wet in the next storm.
The Westermans said they were “very heartbroken” when they saw the damage to their church, but there was one thing that gave them hope.
“The best thing that ever happened was (a stained glass window of) Stanley Rother was still there. He was undamaged,” Kathie said. “Something went through the window right beside him, but his stained glass is still there.”