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Safe and sound

Sat., Sept. 16, 2006

Miracles do happen. Just ask any member of the Albert family. They experienced one firsthand last year on June 21.

The entire family except a son-in-law was gathered at the home of Mark and Rhea Albert, 4216 S. Bowdish Road. Their oldest son, Marc, was visiting from the Tri-Cities with his wife, Tracie, and their three children, Chyanne, Damon and Marcus; their daughter Amara Naves, who at the time lived three houses away with her two children, Miguel and Alexandra; and their youngest son, Taylor, who resides with them.

That night a freak thunderstorm ripped through Spokane Valley with gusts registering 77 mph, causing the top of their neighbor’s 150-foot ponderosa pine to land on their house.

The impact of the tree crushed the walls, destroying the entire upper level, including the garage. The Alberts remember the house vibrating and then everything went dark.

“I thought for sure we lost somebody,” recalls family patriarch Mark Albert, “There’s just no way they all could be in the room and survive it.”

Ten of the 11 people were on the upper floor when it happened and miraculously escaped with only minor cuts and bruises. Earlier in the evening the family had gathered in the living room to visit. Shortly before the accident Mark got up to play cribbage. Others followed to either play or watch the oncoming storm from the dining room.

If the Alberts had stayed in the living room, it is unlikely this would be a story about miracles. The chair where Mark and his granddaughter, Alexandra, had been sitting ended up pinned to the floor.

“Everybody was in the right place at the right time,” said Rhea.

Another amazing aspect to this story was Marc and his family should have returned to the Tri-Cities the day before the accident. Vehicle trouble and a mechanic’s error forced them to remain at their parents.

“If they hadn’t been in town, we probably would have been doing our regular things,” remembers Mark Albert, “At that time of night I would have been in the living room working on the computer. Rhea would have been in our bedroom watching TV. Our bedroom was completely destroyed. If someone would have been in there, they would have been in trouble.”

When everyone was out of the house safe, the reality of the situation became clear. In a matter of minutes the Alberts found themselves homeless with just the clothes on their backs. Everything they owned was either destroyed or still in their house, including their shoes.

“You’re standing on the street looking at your home and thinking wow. What do I do?” recalls Mark Albert.

Friends, family and the community rallied to support the Alberts in their time of need. The night it happened neighbors rushed to turn off the gas and water. Food, water, money and emotional support were provided. A total stranger who wanted to help brought a check to assist them.

“The community support was great,” said Mark Albert. “A lot of good comes out of stuff like this.”

Each day over the next six months brought new challenges. Being displaced from their home and living out of suitcases, the Alberts stayed in a small two-bedroom hotel room for the first month. They eventually found more permanent surroundings at the Big Trout Lodge in Liberty Lake.

When the rebuilding process finally began on Aug. 15 unforeseen problems became a daily occurrence. The original house plans were so inadequate that Mark Albert had to work daily with the builder. At one point he had to take the builder to the neighbor’s house to show him how one wall was laid out. Other mistakes had to be corrected. One sink was plumbed when it should have been two. No fireplace was depicted on the plan so one had to be added.

The Alberts decided to add some improvements out of their own pocket. They paid for a gas furnace, air conditioning, interior doors and trim, French door, garage extension, new driveway, kitchen appliances and front porch.

On Dec. 27, 2005, the Alberts returned home. Overall the Alberts are happy with the way things turned out and are enjoying the added improvements. “It looks the same just fancier,” said their grandson, Marcus.

Although they lost their home for over six months, they never lost their perspective. The miracle of everyone’s survival enabled the family to endure the other hardships and gave them a fresh outlook on what is important in life.

“You look at life in a new way because family is important, not material things.” said daughter Naves.

“It was quite a year,” said Mark Albert. “We’re ready to put this one behind us.”


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