Henryville prepares for two-year anniversary of deadly tornadoes
Inside Henryville Junior Senior High School, there are few signs of the March 2, 2012 tornado that heavily damaged the school as it blew out walls and ripped the roof to shreds.
Much of the building has been rebuilt exactly as it once was.
Inside the band room, the roof and floor had to be replaced. Many instruments were damaged or destroyed and also had to be replaced.
On Thursday, February 27, freshman Clayton Smith sat in band class, in the very building where he took cover during the tornado.
He remembers everything vividly.
"I could definitely feel it, like, vibrating through me," he said.
Students missed about four weeks of class while administrators found a temporary location. Their school sat in ruins, but not for long.
"All of us got busy after the tornado," said Henryville Junior-Senior High School Principal Troy Albert.
He says he became so consumed with moving forward, he didn't have a chance to look back.
"It didn't hit me personally for almost a little over a year. The tornado in Oklahoma was my time where I went out there to visit their schools that had been destroyed by the tornados had my chance to grieve and really realize what happened here," Albert said.
One sign can be seen in the class pictures that line the school hall.
A few pictures from the class of 1976 are missing as they were blown away or ruined by the tornado.
While the physical signs of damage are far and few between, you don't have to look hard to find the emotional impact.
"When they say there's a storm coming I get kind of interested, I become a weather watcher or a stalker, as you would say," Albert said.
I would be shaking maybe even when a mild rain came," Smith said.
They say time heals all wounds. That is the case for Henryville Junior-Senior High School.
"You just go on with life," Smith said.
But for now, he walks these rebuilt halls in his rebuilt community thankful to be okay.
"I think it's normal now," Smith said.
Church marks anniversary
St. Francis Xavier Church sits just diagonal from the school and saw nearly $250,000 worth of damage.
Fr. Steven Schaftlein will tell you it seems like yesterday.
"As we came down the hill over here, we saw the cross stick up above the broken tops of the trees," he said, reflecting on March 2, 2012.
For church leaders, it became a symbol that everything would be okay. The rebuilding of the church is done, and will be celebrated Sunday at a church dedication ceremony.
"I think it'll be moving. It'll bring a lot of memories for people and hopefully bring a little bit of closure," Henryville resident and church member Paul Smith said.
He's one of countless people who helped repair the damaged church. There are no lasting signs at the church of that day, but a be a memorial serves as a permanent reminder.
"It lists the 34 people who died in Indiana and Kentucky," Schaftlein said.
Last Henryville residents rebuild
Crews are finishing the final few Henryville homes up on the town's iconic hill. Tony Sparrow with Lynn Morgan Builders has been busy building home after home for the past two years.
"I lost count. Just in this subdivision, it is the third one," he said, referring to the subdivision up the hill.
Helen Bridges will move later this spring.
"I'm not really excited about it, to tell you the truth, because I'd love to be in my old house," she said.
The home dated back some five decades and was a home she built paycheck by paycheck with her husband.
Long after his passing, it served as a memory of him and their love.
"We built it from scratch," she said with a smile.
In two years, much of this town has been rebuilt from scratch. A parade marked the first anniversary; the second will have a different feel.
"I see now as a sense of consolidation - moving from rebuilding to planning to the future," Schaftlein said.