Kokomo unveils plaque honoring youth who helped with tornado cleanup

A new plaque was dedicated in Kokomo to those who helped the city recover from tornadoes last year.

The November twisters tore apart Kokomo homes and businesses. Eight months later, tearing off the cover, to uncover a tribute.

"On Sunday, November 17, 2013 two tornadoes left a path of destruction through the city of Kokomo," reads a new plaque in what was a disaster zone.

"Tons of people came out. It wasn't just the youth," said Kokomo High School student Joey Hurlocker.

But it's the youth honored here.

"The next morning, 400 Kokomo area students led the cleanup effort," reads the plaque.

"A lot of kids could have looked at it as a free day, because we couldn't go to school the next day," Joey said.

But the plaque says "they began cleaning debris and ruins from these damaged properties."

"Joey called me Sunday night and said I think we have a few students who want to volunteer, since we don't have school tomorrow," said Casey Cline with Bridges Outreach which finds afterschool pursuits for young people.

He said "we'll put you to work."

"When I first saw 50 people, I first thought they're not only here but they're really excited to be here," Joey said.

But Cline said, "I think it ended up being about 400."

"We looked through the pictures and saw hundreds of people and we trying to count them but there were too many heads," Joey said.

"We all saw them make the right choice. They were there for their neighbors they were there for their community," said Abbie Smith with United Way of Howard County.

The plaque continues, stating, "their efforts prompted thousands in Kokomo and the state and the nation to respond in the effort."

Mayor Greg Goodnight also credited Tayler Persons, Kokomo's Indiana All-Star basketball player, now away at college.

"A lot of people especially young people were inspired by his message to get out and help," Goodnight said.

"It's that kind of stuff that builds a real solid community," Joey added.

"This unrelenting spirit inspired the phrase Kokomo Strong," the plaque finishes.

The new marker is on Hoffer Street near the UAW hall that was destroyed and is currently rebuilding.