MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Will insurance coverage cowl this?
Can this be buffed out?
Would this tree make good firewood?
Those are the questions Henri Cheramie found himself asking the first responders who came to his aid on May 4.
It will need to have been an odd sight to anybody, a man half standing, half sitting together with his head and shoulders out of the sunroof of his 1990 two-door Honda Civic and the remainder of the car round his waist pinned there by the limbs of an oak tree, felled by extreme storms passing throughout the state that day.
Cheramie, an skilled slapstick comedian turned center faculty historical past teacher and part-time comedian e book store worker, discovered himself eager to consolation the primary responders. After all, he could not do a lot to assist himself, so why not deliver slightly levity to the second?
He acquired a lot of the identical in the way in which of solutions to his quips. Several individuals provided “I don’t know” or a easy “maybe,” Cheramie stated, however most simply stored calling him ‘the luckiest man alive.”
It took about two hours of strategic limb and car cutting to free him that night.
Face-to-face with danger
Cheramie has a habit of being disaster adjacent.
A Louisiana native who spent a significant portion of his young life in New Orleans, Cheramie just missed the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He’d fled the city several hours before it got too dangerous to do so.
He felt guilt for that for a long time, he said.
Then he lived in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He moved away three days before a monster tornado swept through Alabama on April 27, 2011.
“It’s a bizarre factor,” Cheramie said about this unknowing ability to avoid danger. But after 37 years, he’d finally come face-to-face with disaster.
The May 4 storms initially brought with them a lot of rain. Birmingham, Ala. and areas north began flooding. Roadways were shutdown, homes were inundated and water rescues began. The storms encouraged instability increasing the severe weather threat for central Alabama, according to the National Weather Service.
“An intense cluster of thunderstorms shaped in Mississippi and congealed right into a line, which then swept throughout counties south of Interstate 20 the place circumstances had been most favorable for extreme storms,” according to the NWS report from that day.
Three tornadoes would be recorded that day, including an EF-1 that struck portions of Prattville and Millbrook, Ala.
Wind gusts of near 60 mph were recorded at the Montgomery Airport. Straight line winds and lightening accompanied the rain as it moved into the River Region around 6 p.m. That’s where Cheramie met the storm.
‘Mondayest Tuesday ever’
Cheramie had completed a shift at Comics and Geeks, a job he’d been provided only a week earlier than, and was on his technique to his dwelling when he took his regular shortcut by some residential neighborhoods.
“I see lightning simply arc throughout the sky and hit a tree,” he said. “I lean a bit and go ‘did lightning simply strike that’ and the following factor I do know, half of my physique is out of the sunroof and the highest of the car is being weighed down by an enormous department that’s bisected simply the place my face is. I felt like Buster Keaton.”
Cheramie paused for a second to take stock of the situation, he said.
“And my first thought was ‘is that this a Monday or a Tuesday as a result of that is the Mondayest Tuesday ever’,” he said.
He reached to turn the car off and put it in park. He assumed someone must have heard or seen what had just happened. But then lightning struck twice.
“Behind me, a powerline decides to blow up,” he said. “When that occurred, electrical energy simply sparked and every part lit up and I heard the facility line pop and that is after I began yelling for assist. I did not need to die.”
A crew of landscapers who’d been nearby came upon the scene and first tried to get him out. One called 911.
When first responders began arriving, the reaction, Cheramie said, seemed to be the same from them all — wide eyes, agape mouths and questions about the status of his mortality.
“If my big C-section child head hadn’t gone by that sunroof, I do not know the place I’d be,” he joked.
Firefighters gave Cheramie a helmet, some goggles and threw a tarp over him as they strategically strapped the limbs to his car to avoid rollback, cut it up, then cut the Honda in pieces to remove him.
High on adrenaline and shock, Cheramie declined an ambulance ride. He didn’t feel too bad, and there were minimal cuts and bruises.
“New Orleans, child,” he said when he explained away the decision to not seek further medical attention.
As an officer drove him the last three miles to his house, Cheramie was struck by how dark it was. No streetlights, no homes lit up for dinnertime.
“It dawned on me that the lightning strike that nearly took me out, most likely induced this too,” he stated.
Is Cheramie the luckiest man alive? Maybe, but it’s hard to dispute how unlikely it is that he’d come close to impending doom at least three times and walk away from it.
In the days since, his body has tightened up.
“It’s my neck principally that is giving me bother,” he said. “I really feel like I’ve to Batman it, you understand when Michael Keaton would flip all stiff with out turning his head.”
He’s cried about it, but mostly he’s learned that it’s OK to not be in control. He’s learned to be patient with himself, and to worry only about what’s happening in the now and not what may happen in the future.
For someone who hates asking for help, Cheramie said a switch flipped in his brain.
“I might have anticipated to be freaking out, inwardly and outwardly,” he said. “Instead, my mind was like ‘we’re simply going to take a seat right here calmly. There’s nothing I can do to assist myself so I’ve to let these individuals assist me.’ “
Along with the car, he lost his cellphone, laptop, several comic book issues of “Checkmate” and “War of the Green Lanterns.”
But all of that can be replaced.
“I’m alive,” he said. “And that is what issues.”
Follow Kirsten Fiscus on Twitter: @KDFiscus.