Willie McDonald hailed as a hero for saving lives during Jonesboro tornado

Updated: Mar. 30, 2020 at 10:40 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Willie McDonald and his family were on their way to his cousin’s house when the tornado touched down in Jonesboro. The EF-3 ripped through several businesses in town including Academy Sports & Outdoors. Willie’s quick thinking and courage is credited with saving several lives.

“We were on Race Street at the red light,” McDonald said. “And we looked across this field, and we saw a tornado forming. So I told my girlfriend it’s time to go home. So I turned right at the red light, pulled up into the Academy parking lot. But the time I pulled into the parking lot, it had formed up real big. So I pulled up in front of the store, jumped out, grabbed my kids, and she jumped out. By the time we made it to the door of the store, to hold onto the door handles, it just formed up real big. Debris was flying. I had told my girl to hold on to the baby’s carseat, don’t let it go, and I got the other two boys.”

But the McDonalds & Academy employees weren’t the only people in danger.

“I looked around, it was two ladies pulled up in a Dodge Ram,” Willie added. “By the time they had got in front of their truck, the tornado was lifting them up. So the good Lord gave me the strength to go out there and snatch both of them up by their shirts and pull them up. Put them in front of me, and I stood behind them and pulled the door until it blew over.”

His bravery is the talk of the town & social media. This post alone has more than 6,000 views on facebook.

We stopped to help people at Academy... this sweet lady was with her friend when the tornado hit... the young man on the...

Posted by Donna Roden Brister on Saturday, March 28, 2020

If pictures tell a thousand words, saving lives is countless.

“One lady told me, sir, another person wouldn’t have did this for us,” McDonald said. “They were crying. They were hugging me, asking me did I need anything. I said, no ma’am, I don’t need nothing. I’m just glad y’all are alive.”

An incredible act and quick judgment and his phone is blowing up to say the least. Willie McDonald was contacted by The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Monday, so his story of bravery could go national.

You can see more Region 8 News coverage of the Jonesboro tornado here:

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