Tri-Cities tornado survivor reunites with mystery couple: ‘I just can’t stop hugging you’

Posted at 11:15 PM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-23 23:15:26-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- On August 6, 1993, one of the most destructive tornadoes in Virginia history touched down in the Tri-Cities. The massive F4 tornado hit Old Towne Petersburg without warning and brought incredible amounts of damage to historic buildings.

Among these buildings was The French Betsy Restaurant.

The roof of the restaurant collapsed during the storm burying waitress Frances Jimenez and waiter Lorenzo Briggs alive.

Heroic acts by both civilians and first responders were a small silver lining to the destruction, and within minutes of digging through the wreckage, Jimenez was found - her body shielded by Briggs.

Both Jimenez and Briggs survived the roof collapse.

CBS 6 senior reporter Wayne Covil was there that day and had his camera rolling when the two co-workers were carried out of the rubble. Covil even interviewed them while they recovered in their hospital rooms.

Twenty five years later, Jimenez works at Petersburg Circuit Court. She recently said she had no recollection of the interview, nor had she seen the video Covil shot of her on a stretcher.

Frances Jimenez and Millie Albright

But Jimenez said there was one thing about that day she would never forget - a voice that spoke to her in her hospital bed and kept her awake and calm - telling her that everything was going to be alright.

"They gave me peace, because they were talking me through what was happening," Jimenez said. "Because my eyes were never open, cause I was covered, and I couldn't open my eyes, but whoever was in the ambulance talked me through, and to keep me remain calm... but it was a blessing, that's all I can say."

Now, there's finally a face to go with the voice.

Video from the wreck showed a woman talking to Francis, calming her as paramedics prepared to load her into the ambulance.

Frances Jimenez and Millie Albright

While Covil believed that woman's name was Millie Albright - it wasn't until recently that Albright's daughter confirmed that the woman was in fact her mother. Millie's husband, Ed Albright, was also in the video - and helped to dig Jimenez out of the debris as well as carry her stretcher.

Twenty five years later, all three united in a tearful reunion in Petersburg.

"I'm glad you made it darling, thank you," said Albright to Jimenez.

But Jimenez said she was the one who was truly thankful.

"I'm glad to have met you both after all these years," Jimenez said. "I just can't stop hugging you, you just don't know the power of a voice when you don`t what`s going on."

The Albrights presented Jimenez with a dozen roses. They picked yellow because it's the color of friendship.

"I need to be giving them to you," said Jimenez with tears.

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