Small Towns Recover from Tornado Outbreak: A Special Kind of Tough
Note: I have lived in 8 states. I call Manhattan home on the Upper West Side. The place that influenced me the most... where I spent 18 years growing up in Southern Indiana. Everyone knows New Yorkers are tough - they are strong, smart, and they bring it when it counts. Not everyone recognizes that small towns, like the ones affected by this historic tornado outbreak --- they have a special kind of "tough" all their own. If anyone can rally next to their neighbor and help their community recover, it's a Hoosier.
Heavy hearts watched as this storm system ripped apart homes and businesses… at least one tornado happened very close to where I grew up. Friends and family say the warnings came, then in less than 10 minutes everything changed. It’s been very sad to watch a place so familar be so overwhelmed by damage.
As the tornado outbreak turned deadly – the reports hit close to the place I grew up… just 12 miles from my childhood home in Clark county – it was devestation for Henryville, IN. A place where I traveled throughout my highschool years to run cross country meets and attend Friday night Football games.
When the storm happened and even before pictures… Facebook updates came in…former neighbors posted they were scared. My highschool classmate Kelli Bagby: 4 confirmed deaths in New Pekin – a Mom, Dad and 2 of their children. But a miracle: their 2-year-old girl named Angel was found alive 10 miles south.
Henryville resident Keith Terrell, "You have tears flowing today. it is hard to take."
It’s a place where storms happen, growing up I remember the drills very well that all the schools in Clark County do regularly but this March was like nothing the area has ever seen.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels says, “the lesson I think we take away each time is you can never prepare too well."
Preparation did give the town an advantage in such a deadly storm – as a tornado lifted the roof off henryville high school 400 students were still inside All survived. This school bus didn't. The winds pushed it across the street, right into Bodroe Sykes' restaurant. “We got down in basement and VAROOM… she’s gone… we didn’t know a bus was in the resataurant.”
My former Sunday school teacher Jennifer Bowen: The crumpled bus by Henryville schools was driven by a good friend of ours...he had just gotten all the kids to safety. There are alot of heroes…
National Guardsman toured with Governor Daniels as he turned emotional. He had this message for those who are left homeless, injured or lost loved ones. “We love ya. and we are with you. and if it isn't already obvious, it will be to a lot of them. it's not just government. these are their neighbors here to help. When things are at their worst, the people in this state are at their best. "
My Aunt Julie and Uncle Steve still live in Jeffersonville where the storms were powerful but not as devastating. They will be joining their church and other volunteers to support the communities recovery.