Photography by Danny Fulgencio.
When 18-year-old Edgar Garcia started his senior year at Thomas Jefferson High School, the future looked great. He loved math, his teachers, drawing comics and working at the Target on Marsh Lane.
Then the Oct. 20 tornado destroyed his school and the Southwind Apartments, where he lived with his mother, stepfather, sister Binca, brother, Angel, and dog, Chato. After a few months, he grew used to his new apartment at Bayou Bend on Lombardy Lane and the 25-minute bus commute to TJ’s temporary school at Thomas A. Edison Middle Learning Center. He looked forward to prom and graduation.
Then the coronavirus hit, and Garcia found himself sheltering in place, taking virtual classes and worrying about the future.
“My senior year wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he says. “The tornado was out of nowhere, and then the coronavirus came. My senior activities are going to be extended or canceled. I’m concerned. Will we do the senior activities?”
Garcia spent the evening of Oct. 20 with his mom, Maria, visiting his aunt in Denton. His siblings were spending time with others, and Chato was home alone. Suddenly, his phone exploded with calls from school friends. “It’s raining hard over here,” Rachel said. “Are you good? What are you doing? Just letting you know there’s going to be a tornado in a couple minutes, I believe.”
Garcia responded: “You believe, or it is going to happen?”
Two more friends called. They sounded scared. “The wind is really strong here. The lights are out. We’re in the bathroom right now.”
Garcia told them he wasn’t home and to be safe. Then his friend Genn called and said she was frightened. He advised her to take shelter in the restroom and then told his mom that they needed to drive home. His siblings, including sister Frida, who lives with her boyfriend, were in the area under siege.
Garcia and his mom raced home. When they reached Walnut Hill, they saw trees down and clothes strewn on the street. Then they passed TJ and saw its destruction. “We were in shock and terrified about what we’d find at our apartment,” he says.
Photo by Danny Fulgencio
First, they found their red truck with shattered windows. Next, they saw the broken windows in their apartment and a missing roof above his mom’s bedroom. People were sobbing, yelling and asking for help.
“My mom was crying,” he says. “I hugged her tight and told her we needed to move on.”
The two entered the apartment in a desperate search for Chato. Inside, they discovered the refrigerator on its side, plates covering the floor and the couch and TV blown across the room. The chimney lay in pieces in the front yard. In the midst of it all, he found Chato safe.
A neighbor told Garcia that people were stealing items. He grabbed his birth certificate, social security card, clothes and his siblings’ clothes. Then the family headed for safety.
The next day, the apartment manager posted on Instagram that residents had three hours to get their belongings before the building was demolished.
For the first few weeks, he was depressed. “My school was destroyed,” he says. “I lost everything in my home and all of the memories we had there. I didn’t feel like it was my school. I didn’t feel school spirit.”
After graduation, Garcia plans to attend Brookhaven College. He dreams of becoming a graphic designer or a nurse.
“I was like, ‘OK, all this has happened. It’s my last year,’” he says. “It’s affected me, but I tell myself I have to move on in a positive way.”