Heaven can wait

Published 5:01 am Wednesday, February 20, 2008

By By Michele Gerlach – special to the Standard
DIXIE - Buddy Bradley and Jerry Balderree called their cabin here in the Dixie community, just across the Covington County line, “Next to Heaven.”
Their home was destroyed Sunday afternoon by a tornado that easily could have moved them to that next location.
As he watched the approaching storm, he told his life partner to hurry.
When the wind died down, they pushed open the bathroom door, but quickly returned.
They were able to walk out of what was left of their home, which was filled with antiques. The walls of the second floor were gone, but a bed still stood in place, a toilet twisted from the floor lying nearby.
In the kitchen half of the window was blown away. The other half, from which Balderree had hung a cross given to her by her granddaughter, was unscathed.
A FEMA trailer parked on the property by Balderree's brother, who was able to buy it from FEMA after Hurricane Katrina, was shredded, and at least one horse trailer was damaged, blown on top of a boat.
Baldarree said one of six horses that were on the property during the storm was badly injured, but had already been taken to a vet.
Even with large portions of the house gone, an antique china cabinet filled with antique china appeared safe.
The Escambia County Sheriff's Department, East Escambia Chapter of the American Red Cross, East Brewton Police Department, and several volunteer fire departments responded to the tragedy.
Sunday marked the second time high winds have caused damage to Next to Heaven. When Hurricane Danny passed through in the summer of 2005, the couple lost a shed.
As friends, neighbors and volunteer firemen carried items found in the rubble to a trailer, Balderree speculated about the remains of the house.
At least one other home was damaged in Dixie, and crews from Southern Pine Electric Cooperative were busy restoring power to the area after the storm passed.