Turning back the clock -10 yrs.
WANDA ENGLISH BURNETT PHOTO
Looking back 10 years, the citizens of Holton and beyond were devastated by the death and destruction that shook the small town to its core on March 2, 2012. But, the resilience of the community and the kept promises of local government and beyond gave hope to those who had lost every material belonging. Of course, the loss of the lives that included Ron Pickett, Victor Armando Hernandez Carranza and eventually Ted Tolbert, could never be replaced.
The area looked somewhat what a war zone might be like as houses were marked with numbers, and others were completely flattened with the inside belongings strewn across the countryside. The Holton Wesleyan Church took a hit it couldn’t recover from. Lives were literally turned upside down. Electricity was out for days and people wondered if they would ever recover.
The Holton Community Center became a “go-to” place where people gathered for a warm meal, information and needed items.
The landscape looks completely different now, with new homes where the destroyed ones once were. Little red outbuildings dot the area after a group from the Church of Christ donated the buildings for people to put what belongings they could retrieve inside.
The Holton Wesleyan Church never rebuilt in their real estate along US 50 in Holton. They did join with another community to become Crossroads Wesleyan Church, a new building at the corner of US 50 and Michigan Road, just a few miles from where they were situated.
People’s lives slowly returned to some normalcy as they worked through their fear and with faith rebuilt.
People who fled to the Holton Christian Church basement still remember the sound of the tornado as it was bearing down on them and the wind. The church had one mission that day that was fulfilled – to save the lives of those who made it inside. That particular stretch on Versailles Street saw many homes flattened and that’s where the deaths occurred.
The EF3 tornado swept an 11-mile path, 350 feet wide bringing 140 mph winds to the town of Holton, where it came and went quickly leaving behind a devastated community of people. They were resilient. They didn’t leave their homes when a school bus was in place to take them to a shelter in Versailles, they remained with others in the area rather than leave. Even though there was no electricity, they stayed the course.
Beyond Holton and on to the smaller community of Dabney, the tornado tore through with its path of destruction. Homes, buildings, barns, grain bins and more were damaged beyond repair as people began assessing the damage.
The saving grace for the town was a group of people who came together quickly out of nowhere and fought hard to bring restoration. It was government agencies including, but not limited to, the county commissioners, council, various emergency groups, local Ripley County Emergency Management Agency officials, churches from all over the area and beyond, who took Holton under their wings and made a difference.
EMA, under the guidance of Patrick Rose, was amazing, getting FEMA in place quickly, and the governor and state officials on board as well. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, Coalition of Catholic Churches and so many more were on hand almost immediately to help with the needs.
The clean-up was massive with many people and businesses lending a helping hand. Banks provided interest free loans for tornado victims, and fees for building permits were waived by the county. It took a village of people from those cooking and serving food, to those restoring electricity.
New houses stand where the old ones were flattened. People received new furniture, clothing, everything they needed to set up housekeeping. Some say it will never be the same – but are thankful for what they were given.
Looking back is never easy when the situation is one like this. Memories are all some have to hold on to.
As tornado season approaches there are some things we can all do. Be aware and take action. Those who quickly ran into the church basement were undoubtedly saved. Get to a place of safety as quickly as possible. Don’t take storm forecasts lightly. When there is a tornado watch, start making plans. A warning means take cover. Never take for granted you can “just ride this one out.”