LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Little Rock man caught in an EF-3 tornado put his life on the line to save another.
The morning of March 31, Bill Torrey’s sole focus was the Capital City Classic, one of the hundreds of races he’s overseen as the owner of Rock City Running.
“We were doing packet pick up, everyone was muffling around the store and getting things done,” Torrey remembered. “[The race] was supposed to be April 1 in downtown Little Rock. We had 700 people registered.”
His store, in the Colony West shopping center off Rodney Parham, used to be filled with everything a runner could need: Shoes, energy gels, outfits and gadgets on nearly every surface.
But Friday afternoon, his world was ripped apart by the winds of an EF-3, with Bill finding himself caught in the middle.
“Above the Breckenridge Center,” Torrey recalled, “you could see the tornado.”
But the nearby funnel wasn’t what got Bill’s heart racing; it was the sight of a man in the plaza’s parking lot struggling against the tornado’s winds.
So, Bill did what he’s always done: he ran.
“I jump out the door,” Torrey said, “I’m yelling at this guy to get up, get up.”
The two ran into the shop next door, just as the tornado made a direct hit. Torrey struggled with the doors.
“The doors were swinging back out, I grab them, pull them towards me,” he said, “and as I did, one second later it exploded.”
Torrey was flung 30 feet back, passing through a shower of glass. He has extensive gashes on both legs and arms, saying, “it looks like somebody took an ice pick to me.”
But the wounds are also proof that he most likely saved a life that day, and not just one; after the storm passed, he worked with his team, as he bled, to help others out of the rubble.
The sight of his destroyed store would bring anyone to tears, but not Bill.
“I was disappointed and upset,” Torrey admitted, “but again, I was more concerned with the people that were with us to make sure everyone was ok. I guess, you know…. do what you have to do to help people.”
The running community is now returning the favor. Saturday, April 8 at 8 a.m., runners will meet at what would have been the finish line for the Capital City Classic in downtown Little Rock to hold a fundraising run for Rock City Running.
To sign up, visit RuntoRebuildRockCityRunning.