“Don’t let go” – these were the words that went through Amanda Stockfelt’s mind as she held on to her 2-month-old baby girl, as a tornado approached her New Orleans workplace.
Along with a co-worker, Stockfelt and her baby Autumn took cover under a desk in the metal trailer where they worked and the storm hit within a minute.
The Mom quickly strapped her daughter into her car seat. The trailer was completely ripped apart, and Stockfelt, says they were lifted up into the tornado! During this time, she had hooked her right arm under the car seat handle and held on with her left hand.
“All I could think of when we were in the tornado is don’t let go,” Stockfelt, 35, told TODAY Parents on Wednesday.
“I never let go because I was afraid if I let go, it was going to take her and I’d never find her,” she said through tears in a telephone interview. “It was the most terrifying thing in my life. It’s a miracle, it really is.”
Stockfelt said “It was horribly amazing, but I’m utterly grateful we’re OK,”
Stockfelt, who is a clerk at an impound yard, said that after she and her daughter flew into the air and landed about 10 feet from where the desk had been. Her elbow was still hooked through the car seat handle.
After the storm had passed, Stockfelt was terrified because her daughter wasn’t making any noise. “I thought she was dead,” Stockfelt said. “She wasn’t crying and at first her eyes were closed because of the dirt and the rain.”
Ambulances couldn’t make their way to them, however Stockfelt’s boyfriend arrived in his tow truck and drove them to the hospital. After it all, Stockfelt has just bruises on her left side; her daughter has a slight bruise on her head and a scratch on her arm.
“We’re lucky to be alive,” she said, adding that doctors thought Autumn didn’t cry at first because she was in shock.
Stockfelt doesn’t typically bring Autumn to work, but because the child had a doctor’s appointment that day, she brought her along.
When speaking about the morning, she said:
“All I could think of was to put my daughter back in her car seat, to strap her in,” Stockfelt said. “I shoved her underneath my work desk and I got underneath it with her.”
With the 3 of them under the desk, Stockfelt says, “We heard the trailer ripping apart, it flipped over backward and it exploded.”
“It was like the trailer just broke into a million pieces and then the tornado sucked us up,” she added.
“I have no clue how I was able to hang on to that car seat but I did, because she was above my head,” Stockfelt said. “My tennis shoes were sucked off of my feet. I still haven’t found my shoes.”
It was only when they had landed behind a car, when Stockfelt saw the damage. The trailer was gone, car windows were blown out and her own car was totally ruined. “It just looked like a bomb had exploded,” she said.
Despite all of this, Stockfelt’s kept her focus solely on her daughter. “I didn’t care about anything else,” Stockfelt said. “I didn’t feel my injuries ‘till hours later.”
“She’s my life,” Stockfelt said of her baby girl, a preemie who arrived six weeks early in December. “She’s the reason why I do everything, the reason why I get up in the morning.”
“I can get another job,” she said. “I can eventually get another car. That stuff can be replaced. My daughter could never be replaced.”
Stockfelt also offered the highest praise for the maker of her car seat.
“Graco makes the best car seats in the world, because if it wasn’t for this car seat, she’d be dead,” Stockfelt said.
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