(NEW YORK) — Just days after Dr. Jared Burks’ wife snapped a photo of him taking a quick break from his hospital duties fighting the coronavirus pandemic to greet their toddler son through a glass door in their Arkansas home, the physician narrowly escaped death on Saturday when a tornado ripped through his community and destroyed his house.
The photo of Burks and his 1-year-old son, Zeke, pressing their palms against the glass door was posted on Facebook by his wife, Alyssa Burks, and quickly went viral as people across the country thanked the doctor and his colleagues for risking their lives to save others during the global health crisis.
But the heartwarming moment turned to horror on Saturday afternoon when a twister tore a path of destruction through northeast Arkansas, leveling the Burks’ home.
Burks, who as a health precaution has been living apart from his wife and son, was home taking his first day off in two weeks from his rotation as a first-year resident physician at the University of Arkansas Medical Center in Jonesboro when the tornado struck, Alyssa Burks told ABC News on Sunday.
Alyssa Burks said she had taken Zeke to her parents’ house to keep the required social distance from her husband when the funnel cloud touched down. She said she was watching the evening news Saturday and immediately called her husband to warn him of reports of twisters in the area.
“I called him and said there’s a really really big tornado,” said Alyssa Burks, adding that she and her husband concluded that the best thing for him to do was to stay hunkered down in the house.
As they waited for the weather front to pass, Alyssa Burks said she heard a terrifying sound.
“My home alarm started going off,” she said, explaining that she knew the house had been hit.
She frantically waited for word from her husband, uncertain whether he survived. Then the call came that he was OK.
“He got in one of our master bathroom closets,” she said. “Farthest one from glass, from windows.”
The twister touched down in downtown Jonesboro, cutting a swath of destruction and injuring at least 22 people, officials said.
While Dr. Burks was left unscathed, his home was wrecked. Photos Alyssa Burks shared with ABC News showed her home’s roof torn off, wooden beams collapsed in the home’s interior, brick walls crumbled, and the glass door where she had snapped the viral photo knocked off its hinges.
Alyssa Burks said her husband is determined to head back to work as soon as he can, after taking a day or two to assess the damage to their house.
One silver lining to the young couple’s hard-luck story is that Alyssa still has the photo on her cellphone of father and son greeting each other through the glass door.
Besides capturing a touching moment, the photo also caught a milestone achievement for both Zeke and his dad. It was the first time Jared Burks was able to watch his little boy crawl, Alyssa Burks told ABC affiliate KATV in Little Rock.
“As soon as he saw his dad he just raced to the door,” Alyssa Burks said. “He got up on the glass because I think he wanted him to hold him, so it was sad, it was cute, but it was really heartbreaking because it’s hard.”
Alyssa Burks’ best friend, Evan Clower, started a GoFundMe page for the now displaced family. As of Sunday afternoon, people had donated nearly $50,000.
“They are going to need help picking up the pieces so that they can find another place to live, collect their items, rebuild, all while Jared is working and fighting for those whose health may be compromised,” Clower wrote on the GoFundMe page.
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