Opinion Piece and Editorials

Question this issue:

“What are your plans for Spring Break?”

Austin Pena

I plan on working on a personal comic project to see if I can get somewhere and maybe work on a pitch in case I feel like I get to a point where it’s good enough to be a book.

Other than that, I’m going to keep doing house chores and whatnot. Lots of leaves are scattered in our backyard scattered, and that’s going to take a while to clean up.

Major: Graphic Arts

Hometown: Livingston

Matthew Gresham

I really don’t have plans for Spring Break other than to, hopefully, catch up on sleep.

Major: Graphic Arts

Hometown: Lufkin

Reynaldo Perez

For Spring Break, I plan on working on my car (switching out the transmission).

Major: Graphic Arts

Hometown: Lufkin

Victoria Steptoe

I plan on spending time with friends and family.

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Lufkin

Matthew Kitchens

I plan to work, lots of work. Some exercise and game development, too, more likely than not. (After work, so basically just work to be honest) Dungeons and Dragons on Saturday though!

Major: Graphic Arts

Hometown: Lufkin

Vaccinations Are Important

By Dorothy Popham, Reporter

How important is your health to you? A debate on whether you should vaccinate or not is circulating.

In my opinion, vaccinations are vital to a healthy lifestyle. They protect you against severe diseases that are not only a threat to you, but also to others around you.  Vaccines teach your immune system how to create antibodies that protect against diseases, which is a safer way to teach your immune system than catching the disease. Once your immune system knows how to fight a disease it can protect you for many years against that certain disease.

The reasons to get vaccinated are many, but the main one is it prevents you and those around you from diseases that are so harmful you must go to the hospital with severe symptoms or you can die from these diseases.

Vaccinations even prevent uncommon diseases such as polio, haemophilus influenzae type b, diphtheria, meningococcal pneumonia, and many more severe diseases.

A study says that vaccines prevent up to three million deaths worldwide every year.

For example, as a child, I did not receive the meningitis vaccine when I should have, and at the age of 12, I was hospitalized for two weeks with meningitis with severe symptoms and even had a near-death experience.

Not only did I catch it, but I also spread it to some close family members who also had to be hospitalized. After that scary experience, my family and I got all the vaccinations and have not had anything like that happen again.

Vaccinations help build your immune system to those diseases that are uncommon and even to the common diseases.

If people stop getting vaccines, it is possible for infectious diseases to spread like wildfire again.

For instance, if we would have had a COVID vaccine sooner, we could have prevented the spread of the virus or at least slowed the spread around the world because our immune systems would have already encountered the virus and would have been able to fight it off. Even if our immune systems did not fight it off fully, we would not experience the most severe symptoms of the virus.

Many myths are also circulating about vaccines that scientists have found to be false. For example, people have said that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine can cause autism, but many studies have shown that there is no connection between the two.

Another example is that vaccines contain mercury, which studies have also found to be

false. Scientists have found successful results from vaccinations through many studies.

Although vaccines can cause mild side effects that will not last long, they are still vital for a healthy lifestyle.

For instance, my cousin got the flu shot and a day later had symptoms of the flu, but they were not severe at all and went away within two days. The doctor explained to her that it was her immune system fighting off the virus to the point where she would not be able to catch the virus in its full effect.

We would all rather experience mild symptoms that go away in a couple days than experience severe symptoms that last a week or two and could more than likely lead to death.

Vaccines are still being used by many people, but many have stopped as  well.

In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, vaccines are the way to go. Even if you do not really care about a healthy lifestyle, be considerate and remember those around you whom you  could potentially spread diseases to because you did not get vaccinated. My family and I will always receive vaccines not only for ourselves but also for those around us. You should do the same. Vaccinations are safe and need to be given to everyone.

Texas power grid goes black

By Ty Thomason, graphic arts student

The recent winter storm has opened the eyes of many Texans to just how severe something can be when you are unprepared. But was this something that should have only been in the hands of the citizens?

Three power grids exist in the United States with Texas having one of them all to itself. This comes with many pros and cons, and one of the pros of this is being able to keep away from federal regulation.

Texas has avoided having regulations on a federal level since its first days, always being self-reliant and giving Texans a sense of pride and independence. And yes, this independence comes with things like no state income tax and, with the power grid, fewer fees and taxes for their power. But what happens when your grid fails?

If another state were to be cut off like Texas was, it would not be nearly as detrimental. Since the rest of the states share one of the two other power grids, they are able to spread the resource around to those who need it. While this does come with the ties of federal regulation, it allows citizens to know they will be safe when the storms come.

Another issue with Texas’ power grid is the lack of winterization, or being prepared for intense snow and ice storms. In the northern states, this is a necessity because they experience winter storms yearly, but in a place like Texas, it almost seems like a joke.

Why would the Texas government prepare for something so incredibly improbable? But it actually might have had more of a warning than we realize.

Back in 2011, there were pushes by federal regulators and corporations to winterize Texas during a deep freeze that left many without power. But with pushes like these not being mandatory, ERCOT, the company over the Texas power grid, has little incentive to winterize since it would be an expensive investment.

Texas having its own power grid is something that has many benefits but also has many flaws.

As with many things, there is no perfect solution, but with upcoming studies that global warming can cause these extreme cold storms, these once-in-a-lifetime storms could become a very common thing.

But only time will tell if we will need to be prepared for another devastating storm like what we just experienced.

Question this issue:

“In what ways have you adjusted to taking online courses? Has it been easier or more difficult in terms of workflow and learning?”

Kylee Richey

I have adjusted to taking online courses by taking time for myself to do my assignments and study for exams and quizzes, relying on myself to get my homework done on time, and not slacking off. For me it has been both easy and difficult. By easy I mean I get the information right then and there and no extra, useless discussions. It is difficult because sometimes we do not get all the information we need for exams and it is effortless to slack off and forget to do school.

Major: Radiology

Hometown: Lufkin

Makenzie Ray

With online courses, I have had to become more self-disciplined and responsible when it comes to class work. Time management has also been something I’ve had to work on when it comes to online courses. In terms of workflow, I would say it has been about the same compared to an in-person class, and while learning takes a bit longer, it’s still manageable.

Major: Dual-Credit High School Student

Hometown: Hudson

Opinion on Masks and COVID-19

By Daniel Laenger, Reporter

I believe people should wear a mask in public because the COVID-19 virus is going crazy in our country with four different versions now spreading around and because they show no signs of slowing down. Difficult breathing or not, I am going to wear a mask.

This mess of the virus, which started in China, is killing people more and more every day.

Everybody who can wear a mask should wear one. It makes no sense to not wear one, especially when you cannot stay six feet apart or social distance, as the practice is called, from anyone.

Who cares if you are inconvenienced for a few minutes each day when you are out in public? Boo-hoo. You, who may be infected with COVID-19 or some version of it, may not know it.

Then, because of your not wanting to wear a mask, you may infect the two children of a mother who has a weakened immune system and either of them, not knowing they have been exposed, may pass it to their mother, who has a greater chance of dying from COVID-19. This unfortunate situation could happen to you, but hopefully, it will not happen to any of us.

Four types of SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19, are currently known. The Centers for Disease Control list on their website all four types of COVID-19—the first version that came from China that we all know about and three new types that are making headlines, which the CDC website lists as SARS-CoV-2 variants.

First on this list is a new type that began in the United Kingdom known as 201/501Y.V1, VOC 202012/01 or B.1.1.7 for short.

The next one from South Africa —20H/501Y.V2 or B.1.351—the CDC says, emerged independently of B.1.1.7.

Lastly is Brazil’s version called P.1. All three variants are here in the United States.

The UK version, according to the CDC, is “associated with increased transmissibility,” meaning it can be spread around more easily.

Of the one from South Africa, B.1.351, the CDC says, “Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that this variant has any impact on disease severity.” That is good news, sort of.

The P.1 version is getting more attention because of the changes it has from the original that may allow it to, as the CDC stated, “…affect the ability of antibodies generated through a previous natural infection or through vaccination to recognize and neutralize the virus.” What that means is the current vaccines may be less effective against the P.1 version of COVID-19.

People are unfortunately losing their lives from this virus and its versions either directly or from aggravation of preexisting conditions caused by the virus.

As I said before, you may have the virus or some version of it and not know it. While most of us, I like to think, would never purposely infect someone else with a life-threatening virus, there are some of us out there who will not wear a mask for some reason or another.

I get it because they are hard to breathe in and they fog glasses.

I work in one every day. I would like to not wear one at all, but I wear one not just because my place of employment requires it but because I want to protect myself, the people I love and other people I may never know.

I think it is a gesture of goodwill.

With four variants known to exist, COVID-19 has whatever the current U.S. population is times four for potential chances of infecting you. Then, you potentially infect someone you love, then your neighbor, then possibly me and possibly my mom.

A mask will not be the catchall to contain COVID-19, which can cause a lot more heartache, but it helps keep down the spread.

It does not take much to become infected, and it does not take much to help slow the spread.

What I will do is wear a mask. Will you wear a mask?

Question this issue:​ ​

No matter who you voted for in the recent presidential election, our country is deeply divided. What can you do, personally, to ensure civil discourse (discussion) when talking to someone who holds a different viewpoint from your own?”

Caitlin Sheffy

When discussing politics, I tend to stray away from bringing up he say/she say topic, though it is almost impossible to do that with the current two political parties. It is always easier to discuss topics when we are using statements that are backed up by evidence to debate the parties or to simply make it clear where we stand on our own views.

Major: Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Hometown: Livingston, TX

Matthew Gresham

I can respect the other person’s opinion regardless of whether I agree with it or not.

Major: Graphic Arts

Hometown: Hudson

Baley Linton

I believe that it can be difficult sometimes to engage in a civil conversation with someone who holds different views from you. In most cases, it ends with arguing and bickering. As I have grown to have my own political opinions, I have learned one thing: whatever you may say to people, they will still continue to have their own beliefs even if you prove them wrong. What people should do, personally, to ensure that a civil discussion takes place is to first grasp the understanding that the other people may not listen to you or change their beliefs no matter what you say. For a conversation to be civil, I believe that both parties need to understand that the goal is not about pushing the other person to believe the same way as you (which is very unlikely) but instead to have the other person at least understand WHY you have that belief. All people have their own set of beliefs, and they will certainly stick to them no matter what facts or resources are thrown at them. Even if I strongly do not agree with other people, I will still respect their beliefs, because I believe that we are all allowed to have our own point of view on any situation. (However, for me, this does not apply to subjects such as racism, homophobia, etc. I do not tolerate anyone who is hateful towards others.) Overall, people need to understand that it will be highly difficult to change a person’s political beliefs. Arguing and yelling with them will only fuel the fire; it is important to sit down and talk calmly with them—make it an opportunity to learn something new and see things from their viewpoint.

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Lufkin

Matthew Kitchens

Listen to his or her assertions with an open mind, and then either respond with your oppositional take and provide evidence and reasoning for it when asked or recognize that he or she might have a point or an alternative set of ideals and leave it at that.

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Lufkin

Jake McElroy

The key to making good conversation on a topic so divisive is to let emotion go and think rationally. Many people, if not every single person, will speak passionately about politics and current events. With passionate emotions comes civil disputes if you are not careful. So it is best to look at everything objectively when talking about that kind of stuff. I do not like talking about politics and the likes with people I do not know because I cannot be sure how they would react. So the second tip is to not engage with people whom you are not sure about. You never know what could happen. But if you must, speak cautiously and thoughtfully.

Major: Computer Science

Hometown: Tomball

Question this issue:

“What are your plans for the Thanksgiving holiday, and are they different this year because of the pandemic?”

Alex Ranc

My plans for the Thanksgiving holiday are pretty much the same as last year—traveling to The Woodlands with my parents to visit my brother and his family. We are definitely taking more precautions than last year, i.e. wearing masks, limiting, especially my parents, to just being with close family, and trying to remain as socially distanced as possible. 

AC Speech Instructor

Hometown: Nacogdoches

Patrick Harvey

For Thanksgiving, my fiancée and I have decided to spend it with both our families eating and playing games like we do every year. Although this year we plan to use the guidelines to stay 6 feet away and wear masks to keep the elder people safe, not much is going to change other than that. 

Major: Graphic Arts

Hometown: Lufkin

Question this issue:

“If you are planning to purchase one of the soon to be released gaming systems this holiday season, would you choose to buy the X Box Series X or the PlayStation 5 and why?”

Daniel Laenger

I would buy the PlayStation (5) if I was upgrading this Christmas. 

Major: Journalism/Communication.

Hometown: Shreveport

Question this issue:

“How do you feel about Angelina College’s decision to postpone any sports until fall of 2021?”

Blaze Steptoe

I personally don’t have any feelings at all about the school’s decision to cancel all sporting events until the fall semester of 2021, but with that being said, I do realize that other students, faculty members and community members may feel differently about it than I do. So I do sympathize with those who are just a little bit upset about it. 

Major: General studies

Hometown: Lufkin

Kendall Cole

I personally think it’s a smart idea to postpone events, especially sporting ones, until 2021. It keeps everyone safe instead of having to deal with a lot of precautions with people being there for an event. It’s better to cancel everything now instead of running the risk of people getting infected. I also think it’s smart that they are waiting until fall of 2021 since we don’t know how long the pandemic will last.

Major: Journalism

Hometown: Riverside, CA


Times are changing

By Josh Giles, Pacer editor

To say the least, this year has not been what we were expecting. As a full-time student and the father of child who recently started kindergarten, this pandemic has changed the way my family looks at everything from how we attend classes to what we should expect for Halloween. No matter how we feel about them, many of these changes do not look like they are going away any time in 2020.

In-person gatherings are still on hold all around the United States. Concerts, stand-up comedy shows, award shows and even the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop celebration have changed to virtual formats to adhere to social distancing requirements.   

Locally, cancellations are commonplace this year. This fall semester, schools are canceling events such as pep rallies, sporting events, theater productions, agricultural club events and most lectures.

According the city of Lufkin website, our zoo has cancelled the Zoo Boo that was planned for later this month. Normally a very successful fundraiser for the Ellen Trout Zoo, this year it was deemed unsafe because of the current COVID-19 numbers.

With the downtown Lufkin and Kurth Memorial Library trick-or-treat events rumored to be cancelled as well, Halloween is not looking good for children or their parents in 2020.  

Fall started with schools meeting in-person again (and some are succeeding), but since the pandemic kindergarten through college classes are much different than what we have known in the past. Masks—as frustrating as they can be to some—are common in all K-12 schools now and required on the Angelina College campus for faculty and students alike.

Physical contact like hugs, high-fives and handshakes are still questionable and not recommended for the time being, and Angelina College students are becoming well versed in doing the majority of our coursework via Blackboard online.

Some positive things can be said about the way people have been coping with the “new norm.” Hand washing and sanitizing is at an all-time high, most restaurants will now deliver food and face masks now come in many colors and styles—giving the covering at least a bit of fashion. We are adapting to this seemingly ruthless year and continuing to press forward to the better days ahead. Contact your friends and family members as much as you can, keep a positive attitude and stay safe.

Josh Giles and his family at last year’s downtown Lufkin Halloween trick-or-treat event. This year’s festivities will look much different because of social distancing requirements. (Photo contributed)

Question this issue:

How do you feel about wearing a mask to grocery stores, restaurants and other areas, because of the coronavirus?

James Terry

I personally find it kind of annoying that I have to wear a mask everywhere I go. The fact that I have to put it on and take it off every time I get out of the car can be pretty annoying as well as having to remember to take the mask with you wherever you go. I am personally ready for the coronavirus to be over with and done, so people around the world can go back to talking to each other without a voice muffler on their face and also go back to conversations between people in society that feel normal again. Now I understand why we as a society have to wear masks in this current time during this pandemic. It is because we all obviously do not want to get other people infected with the coronavirus, and I completely understand that especially where the elderly are involved. But I honestly feel that while yes, the mask provides some protection to the individual, the virus is still going to spread and infect people regardless of whether that person does or does not wear a mask. The mask may protect the individuals slightly from the virus, but it will not protect the individual or society overall.

Major: General Studies

Hometown: Nacogdoches

Brent Barber

I feel as if wearing a mask into places of businesses is much needed. Wearing a mask ensures safety in our community and helps prevent the spread of Covid-19. Sometimes it might get tedious wearing a mask, but I have learned to deal with the fact that everyone needs to wear one. 

Major: General Studies

Hometown: Pollock

Hector Castillo

I feel like wearing a face mask is useful to not spread the virus but, at the same time, is not because not all masks will protect you 100 percent, and most of the masks are uncomfortable to wear all day. So, I feel that wearing a face mask should be a choice, but it will be on your own risk.

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Nacogdoches

Edith Barrera

I think it’s necessary, and if you don’t have one, it’s good to cover your mouth and nose with a cloth to cover your face when you’re around others. Everyone should wear a cloth mask in public places and around people who do not live in their home, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Major: Pharmacy Tech

Hometown: Lufkin

McKaya Lucas

 I feel it is important to wear a mask to any crowded area to avoid spreading the virus. I think that people should be more educated on how masks actually work, so maybe they would better understand and actually wear one. It’s not so you don’t get it, it’s so your breath is constrained by the mask and does not spread as far. As for restaurants, I feel it is important to wear it while waiting in line or walking to your table.

Major: Mass Communications/Journalism

Hometown: Lufkin

Kayla Bergeron

Wearing a mask in a store is kind of annoying, but I understand why it’s needed though. For me, it makes it hard to breathe.

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Lufkin

Nightmarish scenes in cyclone’s aftermath  

By Nylan Holifield

The morning of April 22, 2020, started off as any other morning during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was home from college because all in-person classes had been canceled in the wake of the spreading pandemic. My wife, Kim, and my mother-in-law, Donna, were also home that day. Donna had recently been to a doctor’s appointment, and a few days later she was notified that her doctor had tested positive for the dreaded coronavirus. Since my wife works in an assisted living home and since she lives in close contact with her mother, she was forced to self-quarantine at home for two weeks before she could return to work. So, as fate would have it, we were all at home that Wednesday afternoon. Little did we know that our lives would soon be turned upside down when an EF3 tornado swept through our small East Texas town and left a trail of devastation in its wake unlike anything we had ever seen.

The sky was somewhat overcast that afternoon with frequent bursts of bright sunlight peeking through the clouds, and it was very warm and quite breezy. My wife and I were spending some time out in the backyard entertaining our two small dogs, Morton and Maggie, and our mallard duck, Plucky. During these COVID lockdowns, it was important to get out and find different ways to exercise and stay active since we were not going about our usual busy routines. While tossing around a Frisbee with the animals, we began to notice how windy it was getting. Playing Frisbee in the wind is a pointless endeavor as we soon discovered. After a while, we decided to go back inside to bathe the dogs and take showers before making dinner and watching a movie.

Not long after we were all done with our showers, I received a weather alert on my phone. It informed me of a tornado warning in the Riverside/Huntsville area, which is not very far from where my mom lives, so I sent her a text warning her to be on the lookout for bad weather. At the time, we lived in Onalaska, which is about 30 minutes away from the Riverside/Huntsville area, so I did not think it would affect us too much. It was during these moments that my wife noticed how dark the clouds were getting in our own area, and she decided to go ahead and bring Plucky inside to let him swim in the bathtub. We both walked out into the front yard and stood by the tailgate of our truck while we watched the darkening sky. I contemplated moving the truck underneath the overhang of the shed that sat next to the house but ultimately decided against it. This turned out to be a wise decision.

As we were gazing across the road into the sky above the tree line, two giant dark clouds began to move toward each other, and I commented on how strange it appeared. Just seconds later, Kim noticed some debris swirling about between the clouds in the distance, and she said, “That’s a tornado! We need to get inside right now!” The sound of the wind grew steadily louder, and we hurried to our front door. Right before I went inside, I looked back and saw trees whipping and bending. My mind was racing as we got inside, and I slammed and locked the door. My mother-in-law Donna did not know what was happening, and she went to open the door to have a look outside when my wife said, “Don’t open that door! There’s a tornado!”

They each went into the hallway to take shelter away from any windows, and as a last thought, I grabbed two couch cushions to use as shields against any falling objects or flying debris. During our panic, the electricity shut off, and everything went dark. The sounds of the house were silenced and replaced by the hair-raising screams of ravaging winds. Fear filled my stomach, and I heard the terror in my wife’s voice when she asked for a flashlight. I looked around the kitchen for a few seconds, but I could not find anything, so I ran into the hall, tossed the cushions to the side, and crouched down on the floor as low as I could get. I wrapped my arms around my wife’s waist and locked my hands together, and she held onto her mom on the other side. The wind outside became a thunderous, deafening roar, almost as if a freight train was plowing toward us. My wife was screaming, and I was praying silently as the foundations of the house began to shake. Things began to crash and shatter, and glass and drywall began to rain down on the top of my head. I was holding on so tight that I had forgotten the couch cushions. Projectiles began to slam into the sides of the house, and we could hear the walls creaking and bending, challenged by some unseen monster. In my peripheral vision, I was suddenly aware of daylight pouring into the house where there was none before. My wife’s glasses were sucked off of her face in a vacuum. I remember thinking that I would die before I let this tornado take my angel away from me. I grasped her body with all of my strength, and I could feel a terrible suction. The wind whipped and shrieked, and it was the sound of Death. The roof was being peeled off of our house! At that moment, some gargantuan object crashed down on top of our home and stifled the unwelcome daylight. It felt as if the walls were crumbling down around us, and I thought this was how our lives would surely end.

Kim and her mother were still shouting, and I was silently asking God to spare our lives. A whirlwind of random fragments danced through the house in some apocalyptic ballet as we awaited our judgment in this casket of destruction. A million different thoughts plagued my mind at once, and it finally occurred to me that I still had not used the cushions, so I reached out, grabbed one and attempted to hold it over my wife’s head to protect her while clutching her body with my other arm. I was not aware of Donna’s well-being at this point as she was crouched down on the other side of Kim and I could not see her.

Ever so slightly, the volume of this dreadful symphony began to dissolve. I became aware of insulation and drywall powder caked inside my mouth. As unpleasant as the taste was, my awareness of this detail comforted me because it told me that I was still alive and breathing. All of a sudden, my wife called out for the dogs, and it occurred to me with great terror that through all of the mayhem I had lost track of them. She called their names frantically in a shaky, panicked voice. I looked down and saw that Maggie had been with us through the encounter, but Morton was nowhere to be seen. We both called his name, and when he did not come right away, my imagination ran wild with thoughts of what tragedy had befallen him. We continued to call out his name, and soon the rubble began to shift around in the front of the house as he came around the corner and found his way to us. We rose to our feet and tried to avoid stepping on the shattered glass that surrounded us and covered the tile floor. My wife went into the bathroom to check to see if Plucky was all right. Besides some fallen shampoo bottles and drywall debris, he was untouched. My next goal was getting us outside of these collapsing walls.

The back door sits at the end of the short hallway we cowered in, and I tried the door handle, but it would not budge. Something from the outside was jamming it shut. We looked toward the front of the house, but the wreckage was too great to tread. I glanced into my bedroom on the left to perhaps find an exit, but the rubble and the shattered glass barred the way. I looked to the right into Donna’s bedroom, and it was left almost untouched. This would be our pathway to freedom.

I entered the bedroom and began to climb out of the window. What I found when I crawled out was shocking. It was not the same world that had been there before. It appeared as if a bomb had been detonated in the middle of our yard, and before me was a wasteland of rubble and ruin. Trees were felled, power lines lay like dark serpents twisting through the grass waiting to strike, light poles were splintered and splayed out across the road and giant, jagged slabs of once-livable homes decorated this strange new landscape. A stranger’s mattress rested right outside the eve of the window from which I crawled, and I stepped across it.

I made my way through the remnants, and I instantly impaled the bottom of my shoe on several stabbing nails. I had to use more caution. As my foot throbbed, I slowly tiptoed around the side of the house. What I found in the front yard was like some gigantic destructive ruin from an abandoned war zone. A massive flat slab of iron was draped completely over the top of our roof and suspended outward over the crushed cab of our truck. It was as if some mythical giant was attempting to build a great primitive structure with wood and steel.

I could not venture far because of the fallen power lines, but as I gazed down the hill at the road, I noticed that complete houses were missing. They had been standing there before, and now they were completely gone like the subjects of some evil magician’s sinister disappearing act. I walked around to the backyard and looked over toward the small little storage building with the overhang where we park our car. Another giant iron beam lay across the roof of the building and pinned our car underneath. It was then that I realized what these giant beams were: the bottom of our neighbor’s double-wide mobile home!

Strangers’ belongings were strewn throughout our yard, fence posts were uprooted and it was as if wreckage was all that remained. People were running down the road and screaming, and the sound of distant sirens filled the air. Unfortunately, the roads were impassable. Citizens with shocked faces and empty eyes began to slowly move fallen trees and light poles out of the roadway so that emergency vehicles could eventually get through.

We were still in shock, and we did not know exactly what to do. The only escape route was on foot. This was not going to be easy with so many dangerous obstacles to step over while carrying two dogs and a duck. My phone was ringing off the hook, and people were offering to help, but there was no way for anyone to get into the subdivision. Outsiders did not seem to understand the magnitude of this situation. First responders were entering the subdivision on foot and asking if anyone was hurt. Apparently, a lady had been inside the double-wide mobile home next door when it toppled through the air like a tumbleweed and landed on our house. She miraculously crawled out of the remnants of her destroyed home. I do not know how she survived.

At one point we began to smell gas. A leak was somewhere close by that sent us into another panic. I saw a first responder running down the hill shouting “Gas Leak!” We thought we were going to have to leave on foot right then without any supplies, but fortunately, they were able to get the gas lines shut off quickly.

Eventually, rescue vehicles and more first responders were able to make their way into the subdivision at a snail’s pace. The road became jammed with emergency vehicles and flashing lights lit up the dusk. Kim was able to retrieve some essential items like clothing and flashlights from the accessible parts of our destroyed bedroom. Nightfall was coming swiftly, and we had to get moving. Many fine people were calling and texting, offering to give us rides and shelter, but it would be hours and hours before anyone could actually get to us. Without any other options, we decided to walk out. Our dogs would be placed into a baby stroller, and my wife would carry the duck. We also had bags of supplies to take with us, so this was not going to be an easy trek. An emergency responder informed us that some of the fallen power lines were still live and that we should make sure not to step on any of them. So adding to the rubble, nails, metal and glass obstacles that we had to overcome, deadly live wire were also threats that we had to look out for in the darkening night. This did not include the challenge of the crowded roadway and hundreds of vehicles that we would have to weave between.

I was in charge of the dogs and led the way, so every time we came upon a live wire, I had to lift the stroller up and place it down on the other side. This became almost impossible because I was also carrying bags of supplies and trying to shine a flashlight onto the darkened path. My mother-in-law quickly became exhausted and out of breath before we were very far out of the driveway, and it was clear that she would not be able to make the journey. We stopped in a stranger’s front yard to let Donna rest and catch her breath while we desperately tried to get her some kind of transportation to the nearest convenience store in town. Finally, thanks to the kindness of a Good Samaritan, we were able to get her a ride out of the subdivision in an already packed truck with no room for my wife and me. The plan was to meet her later.

We trudged on. It was like strolling through pure chaos that became virtually unmanageable, and we eventually came to a standstill where low hanging power lines blocked our passage. We stopped on the side of the road in an effort to construct a better plan for getting out of this nightmare. After a few minutes, my wife crossed to the other side of the road, and I was held up as more vehicles inched their way in and out of the ruins. Kim was eventually able to secure a ride for us in the bed of a stranger’s truck. We were filled with gratitude and relief just to be able to exit the dreaded obstacle course and sit down.

Even though we were now secure with our pets in the refuge of this truck, it was a painstakingly slow process getting out of the subdivision. The drivers were forced to dodge hanging power lines and splintered trees, and in some cases, we were plowing through front lawns and ditches as they had become the only drivable paths. The journey out of the devastation took hours, and we were never able to make it to the convenience store where Donna waited for us. We had to settle for being dropped off in front of a hardware store in town, and some good friends were able to pick up my mother-in-law and finally make their way over to us. We were free at last, and some wonderful people opened up their beautiful home to us for a few nights until we were able to get on our feet.

The next day, we were going to try to salvage our surviving belongings from our house, but the subdivision was only open to emergency vehicles as they searched for missing persons and began the long process of clearing the roads. Not until two days later were we able to get into our house to get our things. The kitchen and the bathroom were completely destroyed. The oven and refrigerator had been thrown across the room, and the wall where the cabinets and sink once stood was obliterated. Jagged wooden planks and beams jutted out like teeth from the hungry maw of some towering beast. The outer wall of the bathroom had collapsed inward and a long piece of wood had literally impaled the wall. If any one of us had been standing in the kitchen or the bathroom when the mobile home struck, we would not have made it. We are all extremely fortunate.

Most of our things would have to be moved out of the house in a day, and on top of that, I had somehow managed to severely injure my back sometime during this whole terrifying ordeal, so this was no easy feat. Luckily, we had many great human beings helping us during this hectic and confusing time. Our wonderful landlords had an older model mobile home that they were getting ready to remodel, but they were gracious enough to let us move into it so that we had somewhere to stay, and they spent days helping us transport and situate our things.

The tornado destroyed both of our family vehicles, but we were able to get our car replaced with our full coverage insurance and the generous donations from our church and community. Since we only had liability insurance on the truck, we were not able to get it replaced. It is still sitting in an auto wreck yard right now along with many other tornado damaged vehicles. Most of the damage to the truck was to the crushed cab where the steel beam landed, so hopefully there is a chance that it can be restored. If there is a possibility that it can be saved, I am sure it will not be cheap. I reached out to the Angelina College Foundation Student Emergency Aid Fund, and we even had an interview, but I must have been passed over in the end because I never heard back from their office. Luckily for me, college classes are still online this semester, or I may not be able to attend. If they were held on campus, I would not have transportation to Lufkin every day since my family is down to one car, and my wife uses that one for work.

Even now, in late August as I am writing this, mounds of rubble and ruins of homes remain in the Yaupon Cove subdivision of Onalaska, Texas, and the path of the tornado can still be seen while driving over Lake Livingston. Many places in town are utterly unrecognizable. Some people were not as fortunate as my family, and sadly, the tornado claimed their lives. The town has forever changed, and we are eternally thankful that we made it out alive. I was reminded of the fragility of human existence, and it helps me to understand that I should appreciate every breath and never take my short time on this earth for granted because it can be over in the blink of an eye.   

Ruins of the home Nylan Holifield and his family were in during a devastating tornado that ripped through his east Texas neighborhood. (Photo by Nylan Holifield)
Huge debris lay everywhere disabling vehicles and blocking roads. (Photo by Nylan Holifield)
The powerful tornado easily removed the tops of houses and splintered walls. (Photo by Nylan Holifield)
Holifield’s family, dogs and duck are devastated by the storm’s damage but happy to be safe and together. (photo contributed)

Question this issue:

How have you, or your family, been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?

Demee Martinez

Unfortunately, yes, we have been affected. I have lost two family members. One of my uncles passed away, and about two days later, his daughter passed. My oldest brother tested positive as well, but he’s all right now! It was hard in the beginning because of all the unknowns. My mom owns rentals, so some renters could not make payments because of being laid-off, hours being cut, etc., and it caused an economic impact. It has all worked out now, thankfully.

Major: Journalism/Mass Communication

Hometown: Lufkin

Michael Gollott

My family was affected by the coronavirus due to having restrictions and delays when seeing doctors. Also, we had reduced hours at work so a reduction of revenue. The overall effect of the virus has really just become an inconvenience.

Major: Graphic Arts

Hometown: Biloxi, Mississippi

Kayla Bergeon

It’s been hard but I am not letting it beat me down.

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Lufkin

Andrew Kraemer

The coronavirus has affected my family and me in good and negative ways. My sister was unable to finish her high school career in person like she always wanted to. I lost my job and had to file for unemployment, but the benefits have been very rewarding. I was able to do more classes with my free time.

Major: General Studies

Hometown: Lufkin

Ivan Guerrero

Since the pandemic has begun, my activities outside of the city have been decreased immensely. I find myself worrying about the world’s outcome and the health of those around me. At certain points, the panic of the virus has tightened the love between my family and friends, but occasionally, I’m still very concerned for what’s to come for the next decade.

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Lufkin

Molly Clifton

The pandemic hasn’t affected my family directly, which I am very fortunate for, but it has affected my job tremendously. I work in retail and am known as an “essential worker.” I has been very difficult working in the public during times like this simply because it’s dangerous putting myself at risk working with the public. Yet I work and go home to my whole family, which puts them at risk , too. Another trial you face while working with the public during a pandemic is the fear your customers experience. Customers come in and panic, often taking several items that aren’t necessarily needed. They are rude to the staff and other customers and act irrationally. So health-wise, I haven’t been affected by COVID-19, but my everyday normal job has turned into a complete nightmare.

Major: Journalism and Mass Communication

Hometown: Zavalla

Caitlyn Hutson

I graduated Angelina College this past spring semester of 2020. I had been there for three years. You can only imagine how badly I wanted to walk across that stage with all my family and friends watching. Because of COVID, there was no graduation ceremony. I was very disappointed and felt like my hard work the past three years had been all for nothing. I wanted to celebrate my accomplishments because I was proud of how far I came. I know AC did this not to harm us but to keep us safe and healthy. Though I wish things could have been different, I know that everything happens for a reason and God has a plan for my life!

Major: Former AC student, Elementary Education at SFA

Hometown: Kennard

Josh Weeks

At the start of the pandemic, my grandpa was dealing with treatments for cancer and with my parents’ ages, I didn’t want to put them at risk since I was still going to work and possibly exposed. I had to pack up my things and stay with a friend and then later ended up just living on my own. It caused me to take a big leap in my life but also kept me from seeing my family.

Major: Former AC student, Graphic Design

Hometown: Jasper

Aubriana Huggins

Due to the coronavirus, I started working with DoorDash. It has also caused my family to stay indoors much more.

Major: Special Education Teaching

Hometown: Lufkin

Ross Jones Jr.

My family has been affected by the coronavirus because work hours have been cut for my mother, which causes her financial problems. It’s also making it hard to find a job that’s hiring.

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Lufkin