LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – Sunday’s catastrophic tornado left a path of deadly destruction and heartache behind in the Beauregard community. 23 men, women and children were killed in the EF-4 tornado with wind speeds reaching 170 mph. Search, and recovery efforts continue.
Tuesday, Lee County Coroner Bill Harris released the names to the public as families begin the heartbreaking task of planning services. During that news conference, News 3 was at an Opelika hotel with Shamel Hart, the mother of nine-year-old Jonathan Marquez Bowen and the aunt of eight-year-old Mykala Waldon, two of the storm’s youngest casualties.
Hart recalled the horrifying moments during and after the tornado that ripped two beloved children from her family, despite her family’s best efforts to save them.
“He was a very sweet boy, very intelligent. He loved to ask Alexa questions. He’d say, Alexa, tell me all you can about the solar system,” said Hart.
Jonathan Bowen’s family says he was born with a loving heart and inquisitive mind. Jonathan loved playing video games and watching gamers on YouTube. Jonathan liked working with numbers, attempting to dance and bringing joy to those around him.
Jonathan’s big brother, 12-year-old Jaylen, says his brother was loved by all who knew him.
“He was very smart. A lot of people loved my brother,” said Jaylen.
Sunday, Hart and her two sons Jonathan, as well as her mother, were visiting with a cousin and her three kids and boyfriend at her Beauregard home. Hart’s cousin’s house sat near Highway 51 and was in the direct path of Sunday’s catastrophic tornado.
“The house was shaking really really bad, and I pretty much put myself on top of all the kids since I weighed the most,” remembers Hart.
Jaylen remembers his mother and auntie trying to protect the five children who were in the home.
“My mommy and my auntie tried to cover us as best as they could, but the floor fell. I was still in the house when it flipped over,” recalls Jaylen.
Jaylen’s mother said she tried to hold on to all the children as best she could. She says the house was shaking and rocking.
“I heard all the kids screaming, and I tried to hold them all a little tighter, and that’s when the entire floor just snatched from under us, and we were all in the air. It tossed me around, and I hit walls,” she said.
When the tornado past, the house was gone. Hart recalls being frantic and searching for her family. Hart used to be in the military and began using her first aid skills to help her young son and niece.
“The first voice I could hear was my little niece – so I grabbed her out of the trees, and she had blood all over her really bad, and I yelled for Jaylen and Jonathan. I seen my mom and her leg was broken and right before I could go help her I seen Jaylen. He was kneeling over Jonathan, he had a real deep cut on his head, and you could see his skull. I started performing CPR, and he started breathing. Every now and then he would stop breathing, and I would have to perform CPR on him to make sure he had a pulse,” said Hart.
Four adults and five children were in the home at the time of the tornado. They were all severely injured and trapped by large trees and other debris. Jaylen began digging out, helping his family and strangers. His mother carried his injured brother, and his auntie moved her injured daughter through the devastation, looking for help.
“I did a fireman carry over some trees, and when we got there-there was a man in a truck, and he jumped out with a chainsaw and started plowing through trees to make a path for my cousin and me to bring our babies to him. He helped with CPR and transport,” cried Hart.
Hart’s niece, eight-year-old Mykala Waldon passed away from her injuries. Waldon’s mother is asking her child’s picture not be shared- right now, and News 3 is respecting her privacy.
Hart’s young son Jonathan passed away at East Alabama Medical Center.
“He really fought hard, I know he was fighting really hard for me, I believe he heard me crying for him to try and I know he was really really trying. When we were in the hospital, and his body was under so much stress, and I told him it’s okay to let go. I really want you here with me, but it is okay to let go. I told him mom won’t be mad, mommy still loves you it’s okay to let go. I love you and when I said that he just let go,” wept Hart.
No pain on earth can compare to the loss of a child, As for Jaylen, his heart is hurting deeply for the loss of his little brother and to see his mother’s pain.
“I’m trying to keep her from breaking down a lot, helping her look at the bright side, because I know that’s what my brother would want and why he fought so hard because he wouldn’t want her to cry. I am going to make sure my mom is going to be okay,” promised Jaylen.
“I just want Jonathan to have a nice funeral because he’s a very sweet boy,” said Hart.
Hart has set up a GoFundMe account to help the family pay for funeral and medical expenses. If you would like to donate you can click here: Jonathan Bowen Tornado Victim Go Fund Me Account.
A GoFundMe account for Mykala Waldon can be found by clicking this link: Tornado Alabama killed 8yo BEAUTY Mykhayla Waldon
Our thoughts and prayers remain with all the victims and their families.