Tornado 2000: A 20-year anniversary reflection

Last night, we had our Ward’s Christmas party at Larry and Terri’s.

It was the 15th Christmas we celebrated without my dad and the 12th we have celebrated without Larry and Terri’s son John Harold, my cousin who died in a car accident at 26 years old.

As our family does, in the tradition started by Harold and Edwina, we continue to find things to celebrate and appreciate. And we always hold off on our party until the other festivities have concluded. Friends will ask, “Aren’t you tired of celebrating Christmas by now?” The truth is, we all look forward to this get-together as a book-end to our Christmas and a reminder of the importance of the Epiphany.

This year, there was more to contemplate. 20 years ago, we had decided to make family pictures in the kitchen. We had learned from our family’s journey that life was short and we never knew who would leave us the next year. I still have the photograph in my journal.

Two days later, we were all back to ordinary time. And then ordinary time ended. We all remember where we were when we heard that the tornado was headed our way. But we will also not forget how we felt when we realized this one was for real. From the basement of my work, I heard the television meteorologist say the tornado was headed through west Daviess County toward Tamarack Park. Where Caroline and Nicholas were with Terri … in the home where we celebrated together just two days prior … their second home where they were loved and cared for each day while I was at work.

I will never remember how I was able to get from work to Latrobe Avenue. And I will never forget how I felt when I pulled up and saw that the nextdoor neighbor’s house was gone except for a couple walls. And that Larry and Terri’s house was severely hit. They were not there. John Harold saw the tornado coming and alerted Terri, and Kerry Sue took Caroline and Nicholas to the bathtub, where they were safe.

There were so many other family members to find. And phone service was sporadic.

That night will remain in my mind for the rest of my life. The darkness, the rain and the helicopters and sirens are etched in my mind.

Then we all began rebuilding together. There are countless stories of people coming together all over our community. People from all different walks of life put everything on hold to help neighbors and sometimes even strangers put farms, homes, and businesses back together.

The first responders, technicians and linemen worked around the clock. Shelters, churches and nonprofits worked tirelessly. We shone with goodness and love for one another. And that is who we are.

20 years later, we remember. We remember that nature is bigger than us, that there are some things beyond our control. And that when all else seems to be lost … love never fails.