Tornado anniversary brings sadness mixed with celebration

Volunteers, many from churches near and far, have helped in the rebuilding of homes.
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A year ago Saturday, deadly tornadoes struck southern Indiana, destroying homes and businesses in Henryville.
The town is now preparing to mark the anniversary of the devastation. In Nabb, a nearby community, some of the area's 300 homes destroyed in the tornado are being rebuilt.

This weekend's one-year anniversary will be a time to pause and remember those 14 people who lost their lives that day, but also to celebrate all the work that's been done towards recovery. It's also a chance for residents to take note of the work that still needs to take place.

Five tornadoes landed in one afternoon, killing 14 people and destroying hundreds of homes. Thousands of families like the Stauffers were left devastated.

"It's going to be a hard emotional weekend because you have the sorrow, the joy and you don't know where to land between the two," said Carolyn Stauffer, tornado survivor. It's taken her family about a year to get a new home built.

The wreckage from last year's tornado is evident everywhere you look in this small community, with some homes still standing without roofs, and empty lots where buildings used to be. Those are daily reminders of the fierce power of the tornado that struck Clark County.

In 12 months, nearly 12,000 volunteers come here to help rebuild. A group of men who were working Friday to build a house hail from a town near Pittsburgh. They've been working all week.

"The work is a sideline. I think I'm hoping we touch people's hearts, that we did come out to help," said Joe Cupec.

Father Steve Schaftlein with St. Francis-Xavier Church says it's part of a much-needed healing process.

"We'll remember those who died, those who have suffered a lot, who lost a lot. But we're also gonna celebrate the fact that we're not remaining victims of this. We as a community are going to be not just survivors, but in every way we can, be thrivers in this," he said.

Damaged but undaunted, St. Francis Xavier didn't miss a single Mass. For six weeks, the church helped run a massive emergency relief effort, feeding volunteers and first responders, providing clothing and food to people who lost their homes.

"We are half way to the Promised Land," said Father Schaftlein, speaking of the community's progress since then.

"Without the help and support of everybody, I don't know what people in my position would have done," said Stauffer.

Nabb, Marysville and even Henryville, towns torn up by tornadoes, are towns in name only. They don't have mayors or town boards. The recovery effort so far has been run by individuals and independent organizations.

This weekend, they will hold a parade, memorial service and community dinner to remember those who died, and also to mark the accomplishments of the rebuilding process a year later. That's all in the full knowledge that they could still be in the midst of that process a year from now.