By Jon Styf
At 10:20 p.m. on Aug. 10, Kyla Wiersema heard the loudest noise she had heard in her life.
Her father, Tom, said it sounded like a bomb had gone off.
What Kyla actually saw was chunks of wood from the ceiling of their 1970s home on Fremont Lake shooting down the hallway.
Kyla had finished babysitting and was waiting for her twin sister, Maddie, to get out of the shower before the Western Michigan Christian seniors headed to let out their aunt and uncle’s dog.
Instead, the power went out and Maddie could be heard screaming about it before emerging in a towel to see the tree that used to be in their yard instead filling their kitchen, crashing through the roof and landing with a thud.
Kyla called it a “mini earthquake” and the family feared the powerful storm wasn’t done wreaking havoc so they quickly fled the home, which now had cracked walls and extensive damage, for their neighbors’ house, where they punched in the door code and hid.
They would be without power for days and the Wiersemas haven’t been able to return to their home.
As the storm calmed, the family went home to get their 13-year-old English setter named Cooper. When Maddie headed into the twins’ shared bedroom to find Hank, their cat, she opened the door and found the spot where she would usually be in bed that time of night demolished by the tree as well, ruining many of their belongings and leaving insulation everywhere.
It would make minds race about what could have or would have happened if they had been in their room like normal.
“They would have been gone if they had been in their room,” said their mother, Katie Wiersema. “I’m still thankful that they are alive.”
The Wiersema twins are two of the three six-foot hitters, along with Libby Mast, currently leading the Warriors to a 33-5 record and a No. 2 ranking in Division III volleyball.
Western Michigan Christian travels the state to seek out the best competition it can find, coach Trent Smillie said, but having the Wiersema twins helps ensure that they are never intimidated.
“A lot of our opponents might look at them as intimidating and maybe even mean with how they play volleyball,” Smillie said. “But really, they are two of the sweetest girls.”
Maddie, a lefty who missed much of her freshman year with a torn labrum on her hip and a fracture L5 vertebrae in her back, is in her second season with the Warriors’ varsity team. Kyla, a righty, is in her third year.
That injured season and the year after, when Maddie was on JV and Kyla went to varsity, were really the only time the twins weren’t teammates in their lives.
“It was just really hard to see Kyla play without me … it was my first time ever having to sit and watch her play,” Maddie said. “… It was hard how much I got set back from her. I was never jealous of her, but it was hard to see her flourish a lot faster than I did.”
During that time, Kyla wrote a Bible verse, John 13:7, on a board for Maddie to remind her that there is a higher purpose to struggles.
“You don’t understand now what I am doing but someday you will” it read.
Athletic ability isn’t the only thing they have in common. They’re also hard to tell apart for anyone but their parents.
But look closer and you will find that they are mirror twins, meaning that they would match if they stood back to back.
They hit the volleyball with different hands. They even lost teeth at the same time, only on opposite sides. How that happens, their mother said, was that the egg split vertically instead of horizontally, meaning Kyla’s powerful right-handed hits matching Madison’s left-handed spikes.
They share a car, they share a room, they share friends and next year plan to go to college and play sports together.
“They’re super good at volleyball,” Tom Wiersema said, acknowledging that parents often praise their kids. “They’re awesome at basketball. But they’re more adults than me and my wife.”
For now, the twins have a shared goal with their Warrior teammates, who rallied around the Wiersemas after the storm.
The girls didn’t have even the basics of their volleyball gear and their team got them everything from kneepads to volleyball spandex to make sure they were ready to play.
The shared goal is that the Warriors want to speed up their passing offense and attack, giving defenders less time to prepare and react. And they want that to lead them through the playoffs to the state finals in Battle Creek, where they hope to overtake two-time defending state champion St. Mary’s Catholic Central, the state’s top-ranked Division III team.
The Wiersema family has moved from place to place since the storm, spending a week at a neighbor’s house then more than a month at Katie’s mother’s home and now into a rental house in Twin Lake.
The twins try to look at the bright side, that they now live 20 minutes closer to school.
Work still hasn’t begun on fixing their house, but the twins still hope to have their graduation party there before heading off to college, where they might just play both volleyball and basketball together while their younger sister, Gracie, steps into a more prominent role on the Warriors’ volleyball team.
Wherever they go, they will always remember Aug. 10, the storm, and that it could have ended much worse.
“God had us all at the same place at the same time,” Maddie said. “If one of us were in the kitchen, any of us would have been crushed.”