5 Years Later: Hamil Family Remembers Sons Lost In Piedmont Tornado

Wednesday, May 11th 2016, 11:22 pm
By: News 9

On May 24, 2011, our hearts ached for an Oklahoma family whose lives changed in an instant. An EF-5 tornado hit their Piedmont neighborhood near Falcon Lake.

"We were in the tub and a few seconds later, the electricity went out and Ryan said 'mama it's dark,'" remembers Catherine Hamil.

4/26/12 Related Story: Hamil Family Remembers, One Year After Deadly Tornado

Hank Hamil returned from working the wheat harvest to find his home destroyed. His pregnant wife Catherine and 5-year-old daughter Cathleen had survived. His two sons, 3-year-old Ryan and 15-month old Cole, were killed.

"I lost both of my boys," Hank Hamil said during a news conference after the storm. "Ryan was my little buddy, Cole was too. I loved them both."

5/25/11 Related Story: Missing Piedmont Toddler Found Dead

Two white metal crosses with the boys' names written in blue marked the places where the boys were found. Today, they sit under a tree outside the family's home in Cashion.

"Now they just serve as reminders of them when I walk by them," Catherine said.

Inside the home, the Hamil family has grown.

"We're doing a lot better, we're doing great actually," Catherine said.

Cathleen is now 10. Hannah, born shortly after the storm, is four and the latest additions, 3-year old Matthew and 11-month old Nathan, are around the same ages as their brothers when they died.

"God blessed us with two more little boys," said Hank.

They say the boys remind them of Ryan and Cole.

"Matthew loves cows, loves his boots and Ryan did too," he said. "This one (Nathan) too, he reminds us of both of them."

The boys remain a part of the Hamil home, through pictures on the walls and bookshelves crowded with remnants recovered in the days following the storm. For Cathleen, her deep scars on her leg are a constant reminder of that day.

"I do remember I was in the hospital bed, one day I was sleeping and the next day I woke up and I had staples on me and everything, around my leg," Cathleen said.

She says she still remembers her brothers too.

"Ryan he's like Hannah, he was a little ornery sometimes," she said.

She also remembers the storm that nearly wiped out her Piedmont neighborhood. The family still owns the lot where their home used to be, they thought about rebuilding like many of their neighbors did but couldn't do it because it was just too emotional.

"When I'm sad sometimes, I do think back on it, it brings a tear to my eye for sure, it's something you don't forget," Catherine said.

Ryan and Cole are buried side by side at St. Damien Catholic Church in Edmond. The family visits the boys at the cemetery at least once a month.

"There ain't a day that goes by that you don't think about the two little boys," Hank said. "They're always in our mind all the time but I'm so grateful we have two more sons."

The Hamil's are rebuilding a home near Kingfisher this fall. The plans call for two storm shelters -- one above ground and one below.