Tornado 'miracle baby' looks back on 15 years of fame - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tornado 'miracle baby' looks back on 15 years of fame

Sixteen years ago, a tiny community near Meridian, Mississippi captured the nation's attention after it was nearly destroyed by a tornado. But it wasn't so much the storm that caused the buzz, but the miraculous survival story that occurred on that March morning.

"I don't feel like I'm any different from any other one person," says Tanner Moody. But there is something that distinguishes Tanner Moody from other 16-year-olds, and he is often reminded of that.

"I have to relive it every now and then, hearing that story over and over again," he says. 

That story began March 10, 1992, when an early-morning tornado ripped through the Zero community in Lauderdale County. Cars were tossed around like toys, trees were uprooted and homes were destroyed. 

"We were living in a trailer at the time," said Laura Potter, Tanner's mother. "I could feel the anchors popping underneath the trailer, so I knew it was upon us."

"By the third time it rolled over, it landed on top of me, but I was in the doorway and was not crushed," said Tanner's father, Keith Moody.

Moody and Potter -- who were married at the time -- were tossed around like rag dolls, along with six-month-old Tanner and their six-year-old daughter Shellye. Everyone was accounted for after the storm except little Tanner. 

"I was determined that I was not coming out of that rubble until I had my son, whether he was alive or dead," Potter said.

About 15 minutes passed when suddenly they heard a baby crying. 

"(Tanner) was actually hanging upside-down by his nightgown in a downed tree."

Little Tanner Moody's story received statewide and national attention. He was even featured in an advertisement for Timex watches in Life magazine.

"As far as I know, Tanner has been the only baby that they have used in their campaign 'It takes a licking and keeps on ticking,'" his mother says.

Tanner was too young to remember anything and has long since recovered from his injuries. Today, he's a scholar and athlete at Clarkdale Attendance Center in Lauderdale County. 

"He still says that he gets ribbed at school," Potter says. "People call him 'Miracle Baby,' 'Tornado Baby,' 'Superman' and all that."

"Tanner is something of a celebrity around here, and Tanner carries that celebrity very well," says his principal, Dr. Roy McNeill.

"You can see it in his eyes, you can see it in his actions," said one of Tanner's coaches, Brent Manasco. "You can see it in his words that he says to others -- encouraging words to others --and just in his everyday life and his attitude."

"I believe in my heart that there is some reason that the Lord looked over him and has got some sort of purpose in life for him," says Tanner's dad. "I don't know what it's going to be, but he's got some sort of purpose for that child."  

Asked what he plans to be when he grows up, Tanner had this to say: 

"I don't know... just see what God has in store for me. But I'm guessing anywhere from programming to being a coach, teacher -- some kind of profession near that."

But for now, the "Miracle Baby" is just pleased to be a happy-go-lucky, self-described "average teenager."

Videographer Jerome DeLoach asked Tanner if he gets a little nervous when severe weather is in the forecast. Tanner says his gut tightens a little when it's a tornado, but for the most part he says he just sleeps through it.

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