Grand Blanc principal mourns 7 relatives killed by Alabama tornado

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GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP (WJRT) (3/6/2019) - "It's still like a dream. I can't believe that that happened. When I speak to my cousins that are there, they just keep telling me the only thing that's left is my grandmother's house," Sonya James said.

James calls Lee County Alabama's Opelika her second home. She was born there; and after her parents moved their family up to Detroit, she frequently went back to visit.

"I was just there last summer," she said. "My husband and I drove down and we spent about a week there with my cousins at the exact same place that the storm hit."

James found out Sunday evening, the 170-mile per hour EF4 tornado that ripped through Lee County killed seven of her family members.

"We received a call from my cousin saying that a tornado hit Opelika and that (Raymond Robinson) Jr. and Tresia were dead and that they couldn't find Maggie," she explained. "And I said, 'What do you mean you can't find her?;' and they said, 'The house is gone'. And so, we just started praying immediately, my husband and I began to pray that they would find her alive."

About two hours later, James got the call Maggie's body was found about 100 yards from where her home once stood.

"I'm devastated because Maggie, she was like my sister. And, we grew up together, she lived with us, we lived with them," James said. "She didn't have any kids, but she was really my rock. She was. And, I could tell her anything. So it hurts me to my heart that she was taken away like that."

Two more of James' family members remain at the hospital, while several others are in hotels or shelters. They lost everything.

"I know more than anything for us, we need prayer and strength; because, we have to bury all of our family this weekend," James said.

Her church, Word of Life Christian Church on Atherton Road in Flint, and her school, Mason Elementary in Grand Blanc Township, are both accepting donations for her family.

She said, although they're staying in shelters now, there is a Walmart nearby, so gift cards would be useful as they rebuild their lives.

See Related Links on the right side or bottom of this story for a fundraising website to benefit James' family.

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