Inspirational story detailing how a community of good neighbors came together after a deadly tornado ripped through their town.
Story by Al Batt
My mother gave me a wonderful bit of advice. “If you don’t laugh,” she said, “you’ll spend your life crying.”
We hear often, “What is as rare as a day in June?” It’s a lovely month filled with flowers, nesting birds and verdant hillsides.
But last June was different. On June 17, 2010, a series of devastating tornadoes hit my neck of the woods in rural Minnesota. The tornadoes destroyed homes, barns and vehicles and killed three people. The name of one of them was Kathy, and she was a lovely person. She lived in a house without a basement and had no place to go for safety.
The days following the tornadoes presented an apocalyptic scene. Shredded trees held shards of metal ripped from steel bins and tool sheds, and small fires burning debris dotted the landscape.
Good neighbors and volunteers alike walked cornfields, clearing any metal that might damage combines during the harvest. We found things. One good neighbor found a $50 bill and quickly donated it to someone who had lost his home. Letters were found far from their place of origin, and baseball cards were rescued. Photos that had been scattered by the winds were recovered as well.
The photographs were taken to West Freeborn Lutheran Church, located on a gravel road in Manchester Township. Good neighbors and volunteers brought in photos of babies, pets, families, Christmas scenes, weddings, large fish, schoolchildren, vacations, ballet dancers and birthdays. There were pictures of life as it was lived long ago, long before the tornadoes.
The good people of the church placed the photographs on a table. Folks came to see the display and to reclaim these lost keepsakes. Some of the photos were torn by the tornadoes, bent and dirty, but the sentimental value was not only intact, it was enhanced. Curled and battered, they now held a second layer of memories.
The tornadoes were destructive. Some lost nearly everything they owned. The good neighbors at West Freeborn Lutheran served meals to those affected by the tornadoes and provided moral and spiritual support. These recovered photos made us remember happier times. Though the tornado made us cry, the photos made us smile again and gave us hope. They were postcards from a tornado.