I drive by the path of the May 20 tornado almost every day. Recovery is moving along, even though it is painful.
In the first days, people went back into the areas to sift the rubble in an attempt to salvage what they could. I went to the 7-11 with one of my sons late in the evening a couple of days after the storm and we spoke to a man who had lost his house. He had somehow managed to find his high school ring and a photo album. That, except for his life, was all he had left.
After the first attempts to salvage what could be salvaged, an army of volunteers, just ordinary people, went into the area to sift through and try to help. They found all sorts of things. They also began the clean-up process.
After that, the heavy equipment moved in. Day after day, I drove by to see equipment lifting huge piles of rubble to be taken away.
Now, a lot of the debris is gone. Once rebuilding starts, things will begin to look more normal again. I drive by the path of the 1999 May 3 tornado every day. There was nothing left where it went through; whole neighborhoods rubbelized. Within a year it was all rebuilt and there was no way to tell by looking that anything had happened there. It will be the same with this new damage.
But for now, here’s how it looks. I took these photos of a small part of the 17-mile trail of damage, with my cell phone while I was driving. I didn’t even look at what I was snapping. I just drove at normal speed, held the phone up and clicked.
The two big buildings whose metal underparts are sort of standing in photos 1, 2 and 3 were some kind of bigger business type buildings. I can’t recognize them now, and I don’t remember what they were. There is also one house in photo 3 that somehow remained standing. It’s a tear-down, but it didn’t come apart in the storm. All these buildings were at the edge of the storm. The buildings to the right in the second photo are the small strip mall. It wasn’t hit by the tornado, but the winds off it damaged the mall badly. I think most of it will have to be demolished. Notice that the trees are beginning to grow new leaves.
Photos 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are of a densely populated neighborhood that was flattened. The last photo is coming to the edge of the tornado path.
It still looks bleak, but if you could compare it to what it was at first, you’d see that there’s been a lot of progress. Also, if I’d thought of taking photos of the hundreds of volunteers digging through the rubble to help people, those photos would show enormous love.