Woman whose sister died on Terrible Tuesday, uses her heartbreak to help others heal


WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - On April 10th, 1979, a mile wide tornado ripped through Wichita Falls, claiming over 40 lives.

It has been almost 38 years, but Sheryl Mahon, who is now a grief counselor, said she remembers it like it was yesterday.

"The sirens went off, and as we often did back in those days, we didn't pay much attention to it," said Mahon.

She said she remembers her father running into the home she grew up in, telling everybody to take shelter.

"Myself, my mom and dad, two of my sisters and my baby brother, all in a little hall closet," said Mahon. "I remember vividly the thought going through my head, I'm going to die today."

While she and her family were taking shelter from the storm, just a few miles away from her younger sister Terri, who was 17 at the time, was at work.

Mahon said she remembers dropping her off at the restaurant she worked at that day.

"I remember her getting out of the car and turning around and putting her sweater in the back of my car, and that's a good memory," said Mahon. "I want to remember those things."

Because after the storm passed, Mahon's life would change forever.

She said when her family came out to see the damage the storm left behind, they noticed neighbors walking towards Southwest Parkway.

"So, we walked with them, and when we got to the corner, you can just look down, and the other side of Southwest Parkway was basically gone," said Mahon.

She said at that point she knew that her sister had died.

Mahon said while a lot of the physical rebuilding is complete, the emotional rebuilding is still taking place.

"Time might lessen the pain, but the pain is still there," said Mahon.

She said that feeling does not go away, no matter how long it has been. That is why she's telling her story.

"I wanted people to know that even though it's 38 years later, for the people who were affected, the people that have loved ones who died in the tornado, this is still something that affects us," said Mahon.

Mahon said she could not help her sister the night she died, but she is now using her sister's death to help others heal.

Mahon is a grief counselor at the Hospice of Wichita Falls, and part of why she does what she does is to honor her sister and to make a difference in the world for her since she can not.

It is a way for her to bring Terri into the world, to let people know she meant something to someone.

"Everyone who died that day meant something to someone," said Mahon.

She wants people to remember this as the anniversary of Terrible Tuesday approaches.

"The things that we really want on those anniversary days, the anniversary of their death or their birthday, is for people to acknowledge that our loved one was in the world," said Mahon. "To say their name."

Mahon said if you know someone who has lost a loved one, do not be afraid to talk about it with them. Be there for them, and let them remember the good times and life of the one they've lost. She believes it is the best thing you can do.

Mahon said losing her sister during the storms made her regret not being able to help others recover from the tornadoes.
25 years later she went to New Orleans to help those impacted by Hurricane Katrina. She said it was all part of her healing process.

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