North Carolina Twister Gives Survivors New Perspective on Life

Survivors of a deadly twister that devastated a small North Carolina town say they have a new perspective on life -- and death. 

"When I walked out, I had the panoramic view of everything all around me and how everything can change so quickly -- how quickly death can come," said Jean Burkett, a lifelong resident of the close-knit rural community of Colerain, N.C. 

Burkett, who sought shelter with her husband in the stairway closet of their home, suffered only minor property damage. But the tornado leveled a house across the street, killing three people inside, including Burkett's childhood friend. 

Another neighbor, Ray Cale, believes he would have met a similar fate, had it not been for the coincidence of his wife's upset stomach. He took her to the emergency room before the twister gutted their home. 

"My neighbor called me and was trying to find me," Cale recalls. "(The neighbor) said, 'Where are you at?' I said, 'I'm up here with my wife at the hospital.' And he told me, 'Well, you don't have a home to live in no more.'" 

More On This...

The tornado that struck the Colerain area was estimated to be half a mile wide -- the type of powerful twister normally seen in "Tornado Alley" states like as Oklahoma and Kansas. 

"People that see these things and say they they're going to stay home and sit them out, they'd better be thinking about getting out instead of sitting out," Cale said. 

"Thank God me and my wife were gone. My two neighbors, they weren't and they're not here today."

Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.