April 28, 2014
He died as he lived … protecting his family.
Rob Tittle, a FamilyLife staff member and kindred spirit warrior for the family, died last night in the tornado that crushed parts of central Arkansas. Two of his daughters—Tori, age 20, and Rebekah, 14—were among the 15 killed in the storm.
Rob, 48, and his wife, Kerry, had watched the sky grow dark and ominous and were shepherding their nine children under a stairwell when the tornado disintegrated their home. Rob was doing what a man does—putting his family first and trying to get two of his daughters to safety—when the twister hit.
All that is left is a grim grey slab of concrete.
The Tittles’ 19-year-old daughter posted this on Facebook from a friend’s house: “… my mom, and my six brothers/sisters are alright. We have lost three of our family … Dad, Tori and Rebekah, prayers would be appreciated. The house is gone stripped from the foundation. The Lord Gives and the Lord Takes away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”
Minutes later and less than 10 miles away, Barbara and I peeked out from under the stairs as the storm passed in front of our home. It tends to get your attention when the TV weatherman says the tornado is bearing down on your street! We could see the wall cloud crossing a lake, less than two miles away.
Thankfully the twister missed our home, but it did chew through the property of another staff couple, Dan and Nancy Butkowski. Their house suffered roof and window damage and the tornado scattered more than 100 trees like matchsticks.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the end for our staff. The tornado swept across the Arkansas River and smashed into the small community of Mayflower (population 2,312) where another staff couple, Dan and Kristin, lost their home and their two cars.
With about 10 minutes’ warning, they were able to see the tornado approaching across the river and moved their six children and four pets into the master bedroom closet, which was constructed as a tornado safe room.
At the last minute, Dan closed the door as the family prayed and held onto each other through the terrifying storm. When it was over, after checking to see that everyone was okay, they were unable to open the door until neighbors, whose homes were also badly damaged or destroyed, quickly arrived with help. An overturned pick-up truck stood on its side just a foot from their safe room wall.
The following morning, this picture of their home was posted on a local media site.
Facing the very real possibility of meeting the Savior that night, Dan challenged his children to be sure they had received God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. While the family is grateful beyond words for God’s protection, they are grieving with their community as recovery begins.
Tornadoes are full of tragedy, but also have threads of irony. A photo was posted on Facebook by a local weatherman who asked, “Anyone recognize the name?” It showed Emily and Noah Tittle’s name on a UPS package and an old photo of Kerry when she was a toddler. The items were found in Heber Springs, Arkansas—80 miles from the Tittle home.
This is a time of extreme emotions here at FamilyLife. We mourn the loss of a good man and coworker and his two daughters, and at the same time we celebrate the survival of so many children and family members. The news could have been much worse. We are “giving thanks always and for everything” (Ephesians 5:20).
One last post from the Tittles’ 19-year-old daughter: “Dear friends, Do one thing for me. Hug your dad. Hold him tight and don’t let go, that man is the greatest gift God gave to you. Tell him you love him, tell him you will always Love him.”
Pray for these families in their journey with Christ.