Update (April 27, 2015):
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Today marks one year since the tornado tragedy that struck Pulaski, Faulkner and White counties.
In honor of the victims, we're reposting our tribute to them below.
Original story (April 29, 2014):
FAULKNER COUNTY, AR (NBC News): The victims include an Iraq veteran and two young brothers. A widow and a father and two of his daughters.
The deadly tornadoes buffeting the South since Sunday have killed 34 people across six states. The storms may still bring more devastation, leaving behind not just a trail of destruction, but entire communities grieving.
Here is what we know about some of the victims:
Daniel Wassom, 31, Vilonia: a father of two daughters — Lorelei, 5, and Sydney, 7 — died Sunday sheltering his family from the tornado. The man who everybody called "Bud" was with his wife, Suzanne, and his girls in a hallway in the center of their home when a large beam came toward him, crushing him to death.
Wassom, who served in the Arkansas Air National Guard as a load master moving cargo in and out of planes and had been deployed to Iraq, died shielding Lorelei from the beam.
"He was truly my hero and I'm going to miss him greatly," said Wassom's father, Daniel Ray Wassom, Sr., 53. "He was a great dad and a great son."
Wassom had been married to Suzanne for about 10 years, his father said. He described Wassom as always wanting to do the best he could for his family.
The rest of the family was hospitalized after the storm. Lorelei needed surgery on her shoulder, which got hit by the beam, but both girls have now been released. Suzanne, who suffered a concussion, is expected to be released Tuesday.
The family's home was leveled. Wassom, Sr., was digging through the rubble Tuesday morning, trying to find any mementos he could salvage.
"I couldn't ask for a better son," he said. "He was the joy of my life."
A fundraising page
for the family had raised more than $30,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
Rob Tittle, Tori Tittle, 20, and Rebekah Tittle, 14, Paron: Three members of the 11-person Tittle family were killed when a tornado tore their two-story home down to the foundation. Emily Tittle, 17, told the Associated Press that her family took shelter under the stairs before the storm tore the walls away. Her father, Rob Tittle, her sister, Tori, 20, and another sister, Rebekah, 14, were killed; her six other siblings were hospitalized.
"Tori was a constant friend. I can picture her strolling into heaven with her big smile and open arms," wrote Lydia Bush.
Nicholas Finn, godfather to Kerry Tittle, Rob's wife, told NBC News, "They're struggling but they're going to make it through. They know they'll be OK."
Cameron Smith, 8, and Tyler Smith, 7, Vilonia: Brothers Cameron Smith and Tyler Smith and their parents, Daniel and April Smith, had moved to Vilonia last fall, according to the Associated Press, excited to live in a school district with a brand new intermediate school that the boys could eventually go to.
Third-grader Cameron Smith and first-grader Tyler Smith were killed Sunday when a tornado decimated the family’s house. Daniel and April Smith survived, but were seriously injured. They are recovering in different hospitals; April was told Tuesday morning by a pastor that her sons died, while Daniel was told Monday.
Eric Hancock, a family friend who frequently babysat the boys, told the AP the Smiths were just getting settled in in Vilonia.
“They had found a great house at a reasonable price, and they were looking for schools and things. They had just built that new one. It just seemed right.” Although the Faulkner County coroner listed Cameron’s age as 8, Hancock said he was 9.
He told the AP the boys both loved fishing, baseball and God. Cameron also recently discovered a passion for hunting, trying it for the first time last October during deer season, Hancock told the AP. He fired shots at two deer but missed both times, overpowered by nerves. Tyler was an energetic “pistol,” Hancock told the AP.
“He was just a light in the world,” he said. Click here for a fundraising page for the Smith family.
Paula Blakemore, El Paso, 55: Blakemore, whose husband died years ago, had lived alone in her mobile home for a couple of years, family told Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA. Her children are grown, but she lived on the same street as her parents and her niece, Tina Chambers.
Chambers and her family lost their house but survived the storm, despite being inside at the time. Her husband, Robert Chambers, went to search for Blakemore. He found her about 200 yards from her mobile home, but wasn't able to save her.
Blakemore didn't have a storm shelter and wasn't able to get to her parents' home a few houses down, which did have one, Chambers said.
Dennis Lavergne, 52, and Glenna Lavergne, 53, Vilonia: The couple was killed in the home that they shared with their oldest son, Chris Lavergne, 26. Chris wasn't home: He was working on his car down the street at his brother's house at the time.
A 15-minute storm warning sounded, which normally would have given the Lavergnes enough time to go to a shelter that's about 100 feet away from their house, but just five minutes later, the tornado hit. The Lavergnes had also survived a storm in 2011, but their house only got minor damage from that twister.
Travis Lavergne, 23, the couple's youngest son, said the tornado wiped their house right off its foundation. All that remained were the bamboo floors the couple had recently refinished. Shell-shocked, Travis said, "They were great parents."
Travis and Chris had rushed to their parents' house after the tornado blew through to see if they were OK. Their neighbors, friends of the family, had made it to the shelter, and came back in time to cover up the Lavergnes' bodies so Travis and Chris wouldn't have to see them.
On Tuesday, Travis rummaged through papers that were scattered over his parents' property.
"It's so random, the little things that survive," he said, holding up mail and bank statements, but pointing out that bigger items — such as the refrigerator — were nowhere to be found.
Glenna Lavergne had been a secretary at a day care center. Dennis was the manager of a local Auto Zone. Both came from big families: Glenna was one of six daughters, Dennis one of six sons.
Other confirmed tornado victims:
- Mark Bradley, 51, Mayflower. He loved “Them Hogs” and his very special dog, Shieba. He worked with the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department for many years. (Information from online obituary).
- Jamye Collins, 50, Vilonia. She was an avid Razorback fan and loved spending time with her friends. She was employed with SAS Shoe Factory for over 20 years. She was a member of Landmark Missionary Baptist Church in Vilonia where she served as church Clerk, taught Sunday School and worked in the youth program. (Information from online obituary).
- Helen Greer, 72, Mayflower. She and her husband, Don owned Greer Dental Lab, from which they retired and they also owned D. G. Builders Company. She was the best cook ever and when at Helen’s house, there was always food for everyone. She loved to cook and sew, and watch home improvement and cooking shows. She loved spending time with her grandchildren and family and working with her husband in the yard. Her husband was injured in the tornado and their home destroyed. Their son, his wife and 9-month-old baby who lived next door also lost everything. Fundraising pages (click here) have been established for the family on GoFundMe (click here). (Information from online obituary).
- Jeffrey Hunter, 22, Vilonia. He was a senior at UCA. He was with his father and stepmother when the tornado hit. They were seriously injured. Hunter, who was waiting out the storm in a bathroom, was texting his mother at the time. He sent her a final message saying "Goodbye mama."
- David Mallory, 58, Vilonia. He moved to Arkansas in 1974 from California to work with Mallory Construction. He was an excellent framer and trim carpenter by trade. He loved antique automobiles, NASCAR racing, and the outdoors.
- Robert “Bob” E. Oliver, 82, of Mayflower. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Mayflower, a veteran of the United States Army and served during the Korean Conflict and a graduate of Mayflower High School. Bob was employed as Head Maintenance Supervisor for General Service Administration from 1968 until his retirement in the summer of 1986. He enjoyed duck and quail hunting, fishing, woodworking, home building, dancing and spending time with his family and friends.(information from online obituary).