New Pekin, Marysville residents slowly rebuild after 2012 tornado

New Pekin
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It's been one year since tornadoes devastated southern Indiana. Henryville received a lot of the attention, but small communities like Marysville and New Pekin were also hit hard.

Over 20 homes were destroyed or damaged in the March 2, 2012 tornado that ripped through the town of New Pekin. A family of five was among the 14 people killed by the storms across the region.

Town Treasurer Sherry Clem hid beneath a desk as the tornado raced toward New Pekin.

"We thought the building was going to come apart," Clem said.

Their building did not, but dozens in Washington County did, including the one Sharon Clapp and her husband called home.

"I didn't know he was alive. He didn't know I was alive. It is something neither of us will forget," Clapp said.

She says the past year has been a whirlwind, but she is doing okay now. It took seven months to replace her home. She is staying put in Marysville, but many of her neighbors left rather than rebuild.

"I've come out of it pretty good, but some other people in the neighborhood haven't," Clapp said.

To appreciate how much work has been done, you have to take look at the way things were a year ago. Nearly every building in this tiny community, which is not much bigger than a medium-sized Indianapolis neighborhood, was damaged or destroyed, including the church.

From the front porch of her new home, Sharon sees more empty lots than homes. Some of the ones still standing may have to be torn down.

"My friends, my neighbors, are moving to Charlestown and other areas. Yeah, it feels like a deserted community," she said.

A year ago, some people said the community was dying and would never come back. Now there is renewed hope as they witness the town's rebirth.

Along Main Street, a new home is under construction and another nearby has been rebuilt. Under the water tower, the church is being rebuilt, and the congregation remains intact.

An immense amount of work still needs to be done. That's evident from the number of houses still boarded up.

Residents have realized there is a difference between the physical act of rebuilding and the psychological transformation of recovery. Many people are still fearful and hurting as they try to comprehend what happened.

"You never think about it happening to you. When it does, it's always there," Clem said.

In nearby Henryville, survivors tell similar stories. They've made physical recoveries, but the emotional scars are taking longer to heal.

Trish Gilles and her family can't forget the warnings, the sight and sound of a tornado destroying their home as they prayed in a closet.

"We felt it pick the house straight up, like a fast elevator, the house shot up in the air," said Gilles.

The tornadoes killed 14 Hoosiers in Clark and surrounding counties. Over 300 homes were destroyed or seriously damaged. Those residents who had insurance have for the most part rebuilt already.

But around 100 families without enough insurance are having their homes rebuilt by volunteers and charitable donations. That process is taking time and some are still homeless.