Everyday Heroes

Off-Duty Officers Save Elderly Couple Trapped After Tornado

They left their own homes that were severely damaged to help others.


After a series of tornadoes ripped through Nashville and other areas in Tennessee early Tuesday morning, people are left to, quite literally, pick up the pieces. Twenty four people lost their lives, and at least 580 homes and businesses were destroyed.

One of those homes belonged to Bill and Shirley Wallace, an elderly married couple who live in the Mount Juliet suburb, about 17 miles east of Nashville. The Wallaces got a phone call from their son Billy late Monday night, who urged them to head to the basement because a tornado was coming their way.

So, the Wallaces headed downstairs, unaware of how bad the impending storm would be.

Moments later, they heard a loud roar which Bill said sounded "like a train" and the power went out. They heard glass breaking and boards cracking. A cabinet fell on top of them, pinning the couple to the floor.

Bill and Shirley Wallace were trapped in their basement after a tornado destroyed their home in TN. The Tennessean

After about a minute, the roaring stopped. Bill was able to get out from under the cabinet and he crawled around to find a flashlight. That's when they realized they were trapped, with only about 3 feet of headroom and no way out.

The Wallace's neighbors, Tyler Manivong, 26, and his wife, Sabrina, 24, were also hunkered down in their basement with their two dogs.

After the storm passed, they walked upstairs expecting the worst, and while they had extensive water damage and part of their roof had blown off, the damage wasn't as bad as they thought. Most importantly, they were alive, and their dogs were safe.

Tyler and Sabrina Manivong rushed to help their neighbors after the tornado had passed. Sabrina Manivong/Facebook

The couple quickly saw that some of their neighbors' homes didn't fare so well..

"We looked outside, looked at each other and said, 'We gotta go!'" Tyler told The Tennessean.

Tyler, an off-duty police officer, grabbed a flashlight, turned on his radio and the couple left to check on their neighbors.

When they heard a call come through that an elderly couple was stuck under the rubble on their street, they rushed to the address to see if they could help. Another off-duty Metro police officer arrived just after the Manivongs, and they all got to work digging the couple out with their bare hands.

The Wallace's home was reduced to rubble in the storm. The Tennessean

The officers took turns digging through cinder blocks and bricks to get to the couple, talking and joking with the couple to try and keep them calm.

After about an hour, they were able to pull Bill and and Shirley through a 3-foot hole. Aside from a few cuts and bruises, the couple didn't have any major injuries.

While the community is calling Tyler and the other officer heroes for what they did, Tyler said he was just doing his job.

"That feels good," Tyler said. "But it doesn't deserve acknowledgment. It should be second nature."

As for the Wallaces, they know they have a long road ahead, but they're thankful that the officers found them when they did.

"It's a little overwhelming," Wallace's son Billy said when he heard that the Manivongs left their damaged home to help their neighbors. "To be thinking of others at that time is kind of unfathomable."

How can you start something good?

Want to help the tornado victims? If you live in the Nashville area, you can help out by doing any of the following:

  • Drop off non-clothing donations to the Community Resource Center, located at 218 Omohundro Pl, Nashville, TN 37210. IMMEDIATE NEEDS INCLUDE: cleaning supplies (trash bags, work gloves, bleach, cleansers), personal hygiene items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant), and diapers.
  • Give blood (Click here to find a donation site near you).
  • Sign up to volunteer with Hands On Nashville.

Those NOT in the area who would like to help can donate to any of the following organizations:

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