CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Ron Brace's grandmother joked that she nearly put his Boston College football helmet on while the tornadoes hit Springfield on Wednesday. Before the storms, Brace's father was outside taking pictures and videos.
Now that Brace knows his family and friends are safe, it's a little easier for him to smile while retelling their stories, but Wednesday was a fairly nerve-wracking day for the Patriots defensive lineman, whose family lives in Western Mass.
When the tornado warnings started, Brace recalled a similar instance when he was younger and nothing arose from the weather pattern. So, at first, he figured it would be the same thing all over again. Then, when someone told Brace it had started hailing, he feared it wasn't just a false alarm.
Brace went home Thursday to check on his family and see the wreckage for himself. There was some damage to his porch at the house where he grew up, but it escaped anything major.
"I just went down there to check out my family to see how they were doing, called them to make sure nobody was physically damaged," Brace said Friday. "But everybody had their own pictures of how devastating it was. A whole bunch of trees were uprooted. My father was downtown at his office near where it happened, too. My cousin even saw a tornado go by his window, so it was crazy."
Brace drove past some buildings that were ripped to shreds, and he shook his head knowing he had been inside them before. He said there were parts of the city that hardly resembled his home town.
"It was a big deal, like in the harder parts, the less-fortunate parts, those parts seemed to get affected more than anything," Brace said. "The nicer parts of Springfield, the more upscale parts, they didn't really see any damage. It was more of the lower-class part, the part where I grew up. Those were the parts that were really jacked up."
Brace said his grandmother's house was unaffected, and that's where he visits most often. He was clearly concerned about the well-being of his city, but most importantly, he was elated that his family made it out in good health.
"I knew they were a little bit scared, but they know how to handle themselves. Everybody ended up coming out safe, so that's all I was worried about," Brace said. "The next morning, I called everybody. Everybody picked up, so I couldn't ask for anything more to come out of that."