Even the Winds Obey Him
Connie M. McQuin never lost consciousness from her ride in the eye of a tornado last year.
McQuin and her relatives sat on the first floor of the Gillette, Wyoming, home she shared with her son Matt when phones began to ding about a tornado watch. McQuin, 59, says the alert didn’t worry her much. While tornadoes aren’t uncommon where she lives, she says they rarely hit homes. Nevertheless, Matt insisted the family retreat to the basement to wait out the storm.
McQuin ran to use the facilities in her master bath before joining the rest of the family, including her son and three grandchildren, downstairs in the new home’s unfinished basement. But when she opened the bathroom door, she saw windows shattered on the west side of the home. McQuin knew she needed to find shelter immediately, and decided her bedroom closet would be the safest place.
However, McQuin didn’t make it to the closet. She had just enough time to grab the bottom of her bedpost before the tornado’s winds picked her up. She prepared to die.
“I'm praying, OK Lord, if you are going to take me, take care of my kids, and if I sinned anywhere please forgive me,” she says. “Things just kind of ran through my mind in slow motion.”
McQuin saw glass, wood, and furniture from the home twirling around her as she continued to pray. She asked God to spare her from serious injuries, if she survived.
The tornado let her down gently. As she landed, wood and debris from the house formed a tent over her, so hail after the tornado didn’t touch her. She landed around 5 feet from falling on the remains of the residence and 5 feet from electrical lines. The property’s propane tank leaked nearby.
When rescue workers arrived, they immediately assumed she had severe injuries because of extensive bruising. Her veins kept collapsing with IV attempts.
At a local hospital, multiple doctors and nurses waited in the trauma unit to treat McQuin’s injuries. However, her MRI and X-rays came back clear. She had deep bruising, but no broken bones or internal injuries.
While McQuin’s house, barn, sheds, two vehicles, and some chickens, ducks, and geese all had disappeared, McQuin miraculously survived inside an F4 tornado with winds exceeding 200 mph. Her relatives in the basement suffered no injuries.
McQuin says she didn’t fear being in the tornado as it happened, and she credits her strong faith with her attitude toward the losses. McQuin’s father, Duane Smelser, pastored in Assemblies of God churches as she grew up. The retired pastor, who also lives in Gillette, continues to teach Sunday School.
“Since I was a little girl, as far as I can remember, I’ve always known God has everything under control,” McQuin says.
This wasn’t the first time her faith has been tested — or the first tornado she’s survived.
In 2005, all the windows in the family home shattered. Not until McQuin called her insurance agent to report the damage did she learn the house had survived a tornado.
In 1990, McQuin lost her youngest birth son, 7-year-old Ben, to a boating accident. On Sept. 11, 2001, as terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center, McQuin’s oldest birth son, 22-year-old Bryan, died in a car crash. She says five of his donated organs helped survivors of the attacks.
In 2016, McQuin lost her husband, with whom raised four biological and three adopted children. She says she sometimes feels like Job; although she doesn’t always like what happens, she still has learned to trust God.
Dan M. Holden, senior pastor at Gillette First Assembly of God, says he and his wife, Jacquelyn, have known McQuin for over 30 years. Holden says McQuin’s faith has inspired the church, as she serves faithfully in Girls Ministries and Junior Bible Quiz, even during the aftermath of the tornado.
Holden says the miracle of God’s protection upon McQuin has encouraged the church, which has rallied around the family to help them recover from their losses. The church collected clothing for McQuin’s son and his family, helped take up offerings for their care, and found places for surviving animals to stay.
“The Bible says to give thanks in all things and that’s who they are,” Holden says of McQuin. “They are always grateful for God’s provision, and they are always grateful that God supplies their needs.”
McQuin, who works as a school bus driver, is staying with her father while waiting on an insurance settlement and spring weather to begin the rebuilding process. While some of the sentimental items in her home cannot be replaced, her family is alive and well, and for that, she is thankful.
“Even though a lot of bad things happen, there’s still a lot of good that can come out of it,” McQuin says. “It might bother me sometimes, but I know God’s got it.”
IMAGE: Connie McQuin (left) is glad she's still around to spend time with grandchildren and her father.