Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our Town Today- The Aftermath

Tornado in Tiny Town- Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here.

The clean up of our town took months. Houses, schools, and churches were bulldozed. The sound of loaders and chainsaws filled the air long into the fall. Demolition of the high school didn't occur until Christmas Break. Some families left our town and found homes in other towns. They would never be back. Others left for a time and returned to find new homes in town. A few rebuilt on their original lot. More have opted to buy or build homes in other areas of town.

Our Superintendent brought in 25 trailers, and secured use of the Catholic Parish Center and a downtown building to take the place of our school buildings. School started on time in August, a miracle! We survived our first year in Trailer School.

One problem for people having to rebuild was that FEMA would not allow basements because of the flood plain. We had already discovered how important basements were in our town. So now, the new homes that have gone in all have safe rooms as part of their construction. Rebuilding has begun. There are quite a few new homes in the area destroyed, but there are still a lot of empty lots like the block pictured here.

We have a new funeral home.

The block beyond the stop sign didn't have a single home survive the tornado. Today, that street is filled with homes and families again. Progress.

Remember the "doll" house? (Part II) This house replaced it. A different family creating new memories.Remember Kay's laughter at church? This is her new house. And if she could laugh after losing everything, I'm sure she's still laughing.
Some homes didn't have to be demolished, just restored. (This is the one I posted in part II with the search team markings visible on it.)
This will be our new District Office for the schools. It should be done by late summer.
And yet... this is where our Middle and Elementary Schools stood. No work has begun on the new buildings. It is time.
The passing of the bond issue assured that there would be a new high school with a new auditorium rebuilt on the original site. No construction here either. I am more than ready to see that construction begin. Any time.

In the meantime, the modular classrooms are seeing us through.
Community tornado shelter.

There are still very few trees in town. (That will take years.) Extreme Home Makeovers came to town last fall and built one home, restored another, and built a community tornado shelter in the little park that had served as headquarters last summer.

The little girl whose mom died in the tornado is another year older. She won't remember her mom, but I'm hoping that she will know her mom was trying to get her to a safe place that night.

No one knew how last June would change our lives. We pulled together when tragedy struck. Many, many people came to our aide. Has it been stressful? Yes. Have tempers flared and people been upset at times? Yes. In spite of it all, we were/are a fortunate town. Our schools are full, our churches and schools are rebuilding, and there is shouting and laughter coming from the ball fields and swimming pool this summer. People sit out on front porches. Teenagers hang out at the courts. Our streets are filled with kids on bikes and older folks out for a stroll. Laughter is heard and life goes on...
And through it all, we have never ever been alone.


Ragamuffin Gal said...

This post is a beautiful tribute ~ and my eyes teared as I read the last paragraph. People still finding a blessing, pulling together, sharing laughter, sitting on front porches ~ your words are so poignant. Thanks for the blessing this morning!

FlowerLady said...

He sees us through our darkest moments, and sheds light and love in and around us.

Glad your town is rebuilding and growing after the storm.


Alicia said...

I'm amazed at the progress made. The street that had no houses and is now filled back up with houses just looks like any other street in a new development area of other normal (normal meaning sans tornado damage) towns. All the trees on that street are gone, with new ones growing. Are there still trees that were touched by the tornadoes up in town, or did most of them come down?

Ooo... and the empty lots where the schools used to be breaks my heart. It seems so unreal. So impossible. Those schools were there. I feel like a part of me was taken... I can never show my children where I grew and learned. But I guess that I'm lucky if that's the worst that was taken for me, considering that you lost so much because you worked in one of the schools and many more people lost EVEN more because they lived in one of the homes that was destroyed.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. For bringing it full circle from the start of a normal day heading home from vacation to the progress the town has made since that night a year ago.

Gayle said...

It is so good to see where people have rebuilt. What is the estimated completion date for the high school? For the elementary and middle school, has a bond been voted on yet? I never thought of things like that. Is there insurance that will pay part of the costs of the schools being rebuilt?

Mrs. E said...

Insurance and FEMA will pay for the 60+ million for all the school buildings and the school district pays the final 15% with a bond that passed this spring. (8.2 million) Projected date for the HS was August 2010. With no building happening yet, that is doubtful. Hopefully, Dec. of 2010. Otherwise, summer of 2011.

elk said...

such progress made through hard work and deep faith ...I am so grateful

2Thinks said...

Amazing. A real life person in a real place where this really happened- telling it all right here. I have savored every word of this tragic real life story. It is inspirational the way way you have told it. Thank you for sharing this with all of us!

Mary said...

Just read through your tornado story the other day. It brought tears to my eyes. My husband's hometown had a tornado 3 years ago, and I had a memorial on my blog about it. You can read it here:
Thank God the tornado didn't hit during the day, and kids weren't in the high school, like they were in Alabama. There was a lot of controversy over whether or not the kids should've been sent home, but I think the admin did the right thing. Many kids wouldn't have gone home and more lives would've been lost. I'm enjoying your blog...keep 'em coming!

Victoria Alcisto said...

Looking at all of this makes me cry! I can't believe we finally have a school to be in. No more walking in rain, snow or mud. But I miss the sunshine!