LOWER ALLEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS 2) – A beloved wife was killed on the Grand Central Parkway when New York City was hit by tornadoes back in September.
It was a cruel twist of fate that trapped a Pennsylvania couple in the wicked weather and left behind a devastated husband.
We’re now hearing from the survivor for the very first time, CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey reports.
“I was screaming, ‘My baby! Save my baby!’” Bill Levakis said.
Levakis said can’t get the image out of his mind, the moment a tornado took his wife, and the memory of seeing her die in front of his eyes.
“I was in the eye of the storm. My car and the tree was in the eye of the storm,” he said.
His car was crushed and his wife was killed when two tornadoes ripped through the city on Sept. 16. The wicked winds and torrential rains wreaked havoc throughout neighborhoods. Hundreds of trees were knocked down, sidewalks were ripped apart and there were traffic jams that lasted hours. Out of the massive devastation there was just one fatality, 30-year-old Lina Levakis, who had been visiting from out of state.
When asked how difficult the past few weeks have been, Bill Levakis said, “Oh my God, oh my God, every single thing.”
For the first time, we’re hearing from her husband, who spoke to Hennessey in the Pennsylvania home the couple once shared. Here, Levakis showed Hennessey the knickknacks hanging up, the mementos of their love, and he spoke of his immense loss on that horrific day.
“The feeling is very, very real, very, very hard,” he said.
The couple was on the Grand Central Parkway and Lina, as always, was behind the wheel. But she became uncomfortable driving in the big storm.
“She said, ‘I can’t drive with this kind of weather.’ I said, ‘Alright, Lina, you know what you’re going to do? Pull on the side. Pull on the side. Let me drive.’ And then she pulled on the side,” Bill Levakis said.
However, the ferocious wind was too much for the 60-year-old to even leave the car.
“No, no. We never switched. I opened the door. I couldn’t … I couldn’t switch,” Levakis said.
Instead, he said he told Lina to get back on the road and away from the trees. She drove about 10 feet.
“Bam! The tree came down,” Levakis said.
A tall timber had destroyed the driver’s side. With no warning, and no goodbye, she was gone.
“You don’t see no face, nothing. You just see the roof of the car. The only thing you see … her little hands, her little baby hands,” Levakis said.
For the agonizing moments until rescuers arrived, Levakis said he was frantic.
“I was screaming ‘My baby! My life, my honey! My baby, baby!” he said.
He’s alone now, in the one place he said he doesn’t want to be – home.
“I see so many memories,” Levakis said.
Memories that are inescapable. So many photos, so many reminders …
“How many thousand I have … I don’t know,” Levakis said.
This widower said he finds refuge at the restaurant the couple started but he can’t get away from his wife’s presence, even here.
“She used to make the cakes, the bread,” Levakis said.
Back at home, a candle burns for Lina along with a wish to turn back time.
“I would like the tree to fall on both of us, you understand? That’s the only thing I would wish, is to go with her,” he said. “You know? Better than having this kind of pain right now.”
Ironically, a nearby plaque reads “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” For Levakis, it’s a near impossible dance he’ll need help with.
“Let God direct me and tell me exactly what to do from now until the day I die,” he said.
Until that happens, his journey’s peaks and valleys will come with an excruciating reminder of life’s happiness and heartache.