FOREST — Since they were 3 years old, Kenny White and Brandon Baumgardner have done everything together.
They have played together in their Forest neighborhood, gone to school together, swam at the village park together and for a while, they feared Friday, they might die together.
The two 12-year-olds were caught in the storm that roared into their community late Friday afternoon and left them both with broken legs and scars to remember their summer vacation.
The boys were swimming at the pool in Gormley Park when the sky grew dark and the wind picked up without warning. The staff at the pool told the swimmers they were closing for the day and the boys thought they would wait out the impending storm at a friend’s house, they said.
They still were in their swimming trunks as the wind grew stronger and the trees in the park began to sway and crack. The boys began to run and were nearly through the large moaning trees when Brandon heard a loud crack. He shoved Kenny, who was running ahead of him, in hopes of saving him from the crashing limbs falling around them.
Suddenly, Brandon said, the weight of the falling tree fell across his back and he was thrown into the paved walkway face first.
“I tried to get up, but I knew my leg was broken,” Brandon said.
Kenny does not recall anything. He was knocked out and pinned under the tree for several minutes. The first thing he can recall was Brandon screaming his name with blood covering his face. Kenny, too, had a broken leg and the boys were terrified more destruction was coming their way.
Directly across Mary Street, John and Marsha Roby were keeping an eye on the approaching storm, when Marsha looked out the couple’s front window at Gormley Park.
“I yelled at John, ‘There are a couple of kids hurt in the park,’” Marsha recalled.
They went to their porch and John crossed the street to where the boys were trapped.
“The trees sounded like they were exploding,” Marsha said.
Hail had begun to make the situation even worse when John reached the park.
“Brandon was covered in blood,” John said. “I yelled at Marsha to call 9-1-1.”
He knelt down beside the injured teen.
“Brandon said, ‘Help me. I don’t want to die’ and I told him, you’re not dying today,’” John said.
He saw that Kenny was stable and helped get Brandon to his feet. With his arms holding on tight around John’s neck, Brandon was taken to the Roby house. Marsha helped Kenny follow.
Inside the house the Robys cared for the injuries of the young men while they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
“They were two brave young men,” John said.
“Yes, they were,” his wife agreed.
“And very polite, too. They said ‘madam’ and ‘’please’,” John said.
Marsha and John tried to get Brandon’s bleeding stopped. His shirt was soaked, they said.
“Our front porch has often been used as a sanctuary for kids to sit out storms,” Marsha said. “We are used to kids on the porch, but we never had two broken legs and a bleeder.”
The two boys were safely in the Roby home, but their parents did not know where they were and were getting anxious about their safety. Kenny’s mother, Kelli, was working at delivering mail.
Brandon’s parents, Bob and Tami Vaughters, had gone into Kenton to cash their paychecks and get something to bring home for dinner. The last they saw Kenny and Brandon, they were at the pool, Kelli said, and the skies were clear.
As they returned to Forest, the sky grew darker and the winds blew stronger and Bob and Tami decided to go to the park and check on the boys. They were not there.
Tami contacted Kelli, who told her, “I don’t know where those boys are, but I am sure they are together.”
“We were starting to panic,” Tami said. “We couldn’t find the boys anywhere.”
They saw an ambulance preparing to leave the village and flagged it down to discover Brandon and Kenny being taken to the hospital.
Brandon was given 11 stitches over his eye and 15 staples in his head. Both boys underwent surgery on their left legs. More operations may follow to insert pins and plates, Tami said.
“These boys have been friends since they were 3,” she said. “They broke the same leg. Shared the same ambulance and doctor and were in the same hospital room.”
Since Friday, Kenny and Brandon have become special friends to the Robys and the two teens say they will never forget the generosity the couple showed them in a crisis.
“I am thankful I’m not dead and they saved me,” Brandon said.
“It was really nice of them,” Kenny agreed.
“They are like a new grandpa and grandma to the boys,” Tami said. “They braved the storm and came out to get them. I bought them a card telling them they are real heroes.”
But the Robys are not sure they deserve the title of “heroes”.
“We didn’t do anything anybody else wouldn’t have done,” Marsha said.
By DAN ROBINSON
DC-U news bureau