Griffith marks 1 year since tornado

August 4, 2009 4:44:40 PM PDT
One year ago, a tornado touched down in Griffith, Indiana.With winds over 100 miles an hour, it damaged dozens of homes and business and left behind a five mile path of destruction.

It was a powerful tornado that caused great damage, but spared lives. Some of the people who survived it say it's hard to believe that a year has passed, though the early months of clean-up and rebuilding seemed to last forever.

The people of Griffith also learned something that they probably already knew; that resilience is a powerful thing and so too is the desire to help.

On Indiana Place in Griffith, homes were shredded. You couldn't walk the street for all the debris and downed trees, a testament to the power of wind at 120 miles per hour.

Reinbold remembers, when the tornado had departed, her daughter looking out the front door.

"We looked out and she says, Mom, you should see.' We looked and it was just devastation," said Reinbold.

Anita, her husband Dave, and grandson Grayden were among six in the house that night. They were not hurt. Imagine though the impression that an experience like that has on a 10-year-old.

"I was thinking, how can something like this do so much destruction when it was like two seconds long," said Grayden Heeter, 10.

Sixteen homes were destroyed in an instant, and only now are the final touches being put on the last rebuild.

It wasn't until last March that Wayne Billingsley and his wife were able to move back into their home.

"So you just kind of grin and bear it and work it out," said Billingsley.

Grin and bear it doesn't mean it's been easy. Spending months in a motel, as eight families did, was taxing. But what happened was neighbors grew closer. They helped each other and others helped them.

"Tim's Landscaping, them came by and...all of us were out of power for a full week and he donated gas cards to run generators," said Dave Reinbold.

"People gave food coupons to get us over the hump," said Anita Reinbold.

There are reminders of the tornado. Dave, in fact, is keeping one of them - a piece of metal shot like a rocket from a transformer across the street. It was imbedded in a bedroom wall.

Personal belongings were lost. So too were many mature trees, but new ones have been planted. And what will never be lost Griffith is one remarkable reality.

"No deaths. That's the most beautiful part about the whole thing. You can replace things. You can't replace life," said Billingsley.

The few injuries that occurred were comparatively minor. Whenever the Griffith tornado is remembered, the fact that nobody died will always be the most important part of the narrative.

The first organized remembrance takes place on Tuesday. Neighbors from the storm's path will gather on Tuesday evening for a candlelight vigil to celebrate life and the strength of the human spirit.


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