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May 22 was not just a day of tragedy for the Tsangaris family–it was also a day of great joy. John and Valetta oldest daughter has autism, and the day of the tornado was graduation day for her–a day her parents say they weren’t sure if they would see. However, they ran right into the thick of the storm. After trying to escape the hail and Goliath winds, they took cover in their car under a bank at 20th and Connecticut. Other than one other vehicle that took refuge under the awning, all the other vehicles had been tossed and the people that were in them had died,” John says. “We were two of the five people in that area that actually stayed alive in cars.”
Their house still stood when they returned, but the less-visible damage sparked a battle between them and their insurance company . The company refused to recognize their home damage–the sinking foundation and the buckling frame–because the house was still “livable.” Now, the house sits in limbo since it has too much damage to fix and not enough damage to tear down and build a new home.
Since then, the Tsangaris family has made a home out of a fifth-wheel RV parked next to their house while they continue searching for a new home. Keeping a family in small quarters can be cramped, aggravating, even a bit miserable. But John and Valetta somehow make it work and remain optimistic about their family’s future. “Right now, we don’t have too many options,” John says. “We’re a good team. We can make pretty much anything work.”
Video produced by Derrick Ho & Nicole Garner; Text by Justin Whaley
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