Community celebrates its recovery

Published 10:31 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

At 4:10 p.m. on April 28, the blue sky was clear and cloudless.

In fact, the sun was so bright that several guests took comfort in the shade of a giant tent set up specifically for the afternoon.

“The sky looks a little different this year,” Larry Bilby said, and the tent erupted in laughs.

Email newsletter signup

It was, in fact, completely different than exactly that time just one year before.

One year before, the sky was a deep charcoal gray, rain pouring down from the skies, and the train-like sound of the wind was whistling through the area in the form of a giant funnel cloud.

If anything was apparent Tuesday afternoon as neighbors from the Hillpoint community met for a celebratory barbecue, it was what a difference one year makes.

“It’s strange,” Bilby said. “You can remember the devastation that was here, but then you come back and it’s almost like nothing has happened. Then again, you get little flashes, little memories, and you know it really happened. It’s surreal.”

Kent and Sandi Ford’s house was destroyed during the storm, but Kent thought the now-vacant lot — despite the massive dumpster and pieces of wood — would be the perfect place to celebrate the “blessing” of the tornado.

“I can’t think of a better thing to do, one year later, with the people who have moved back in, than to pull all the neighbors back and celebrate the neighborhood and experiences we had,” he said. “It’s just a celebration.”

Starting at 4:15 in the afternoon, which was around the time the tornado began its assault on the city last year, the Fords had a casual thank-you social.

Giant signs bore the names of different organizations that helped out during the clean up effort.

Neighbors could meet, catch up and socialize under the giant tent.

There was even a journal on hand for people to leave their thoughts and memories from this time last year.

Following that time of remembrance, the neighborhood held a community barbecue, with neighbors lending use of their grills, coolers, chairs and tables and bringing food to share.

It was precisely that community spirit that Kent said needed to be celebrated.

“This neighborhood came together after this storm,” he said. “We were all doing our own things, and then, the storm came and we became a unified front. It’s been wonderful. There are a lot of different stories out here from the storm – a lot of different blessings. No one was seriously injured. No one was killed. That’s a miracle in itself. And we came together as neighbors. We are celebrating that.”