(NECN: Peter Howe, Brimfield, Mass.) - "I just got down on my knees and prayed -- and off I went."
That was Ron Gebo's description of living through Wednesday night's tornado at the Village Green family campground here, when his trailer was tossed thirty feet upside-down into a brook and a tree pierced the floor. The East Longmeadow, Mass., man crawled out -- but a neighbor was not so lucky, killed when her camper was flipped upside down and she was crushed to death by her refrigerator. The victim's name had not been officially released by mid-Thursday, but she was one of 4 confirmed fatalities from Wednesday's tornadoes.
The twister laid waste to the 100-acre campground, where 97 seasonal campers put up trailers for the summer and on warm weekends, as many as 500 people gather around a pond to relax and enjoy this slice of rolling central New England countryside.
"When they say it's like a freight train -- nah, it's like standing behind a 747, the wind and the noise," said Lester Twarowski, whose family has owned and built up the campground for 18 years.
Devastated and shocked, campers came Thursday to salvage what they could, to console each other and the Twarowskis -- and to begin cleaning up and dreaming of the year Village Green reopens.
"This is like a dead-end street where everybody sits on their front porch," Twarowski said.
"It's like a family," said JoAnn Donovan of Palmer, who's been coming for three years. "Everybody's friendly, everybody helps each other out like a family. We'll regroup ... Somehow."
With videographer Daniel J. Ferrigan