battered – not beaten

Weather spotters reported the tornado touched down at 4:38 a.m. about 6 miles southeast of Marion and a few minutes later, about 2 miles southwest of Harrisburg. It soon roared through town destroying residences in several blocks of a south neighborhood known as Dorrisville, flattening businesses along a stretch of South Commercial Street and bringing down a newly built subdivision where six of the casualties occurred. There was damage to residences near and to Harrisburg Medical Center. Continuing its northeasterly path, the tornado struck portions of Southeastern Illinois College and struck Ridgway in Gallatin County, destroying St. Joseph Catholic Church, several businesses and homes. Wind speeds reached 170 mph, ranking the tornado as an EF4, meaning it belonged on the second most powerful classification on Enhanced Fujita Scale, according to the National Weather Service. There were six immediate deaths in Harrisburg from the tornado strike — Randy Rann, 64; Donna Rann, 61, Jaylynn Ferrell, 22, Mary Osman, 75, Linda Hull, 74, and Greg Swierk, 50. A seventh victim, Don Smith, 70, died March 7 in Deaconess Hospital of Evansville, Ind., where he was treated for blunt force injuries. An eight victim, R. Blaine Mauney, 74, died May 31, from major injuries suffered in the tornado. A final assessment showed 104 structures damaged including 66 deemed total losses. LEAP DAY TORNADO: ONE YEAR LATER BATTERED — NOT BEATEN THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTO Several flattened homes are seen Feb. 29, 2012, in the southeast corner of Harrisburg. BY SCOTT FITZGERALD THE SOUTHERN O ne of nature’s most powerful cataclysms — a tornado — roared through much of Saline and Gallatin counties on Feb. 29, 2012, claiming eight lives and causing millions of dollars of damage. Wind speeds reached 170 mph, ranking the tornado as an EF4, meaning it belonged on the second most powerful classification on Enhanced Fujita Scale, according to the National Weather Service. Mother Nature’s fury on display THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTO Emergency crews comb through some of the damage in Harrisburg. Recovery filled with emotion M ost of the visible wounds have been healed. Homes have been rebuilt and repaired. However, the EF-4 tornado that devastated part of Harrisburg on Feb. 29, 2012, inflicted wounds that will take years to heal. Families of the eight people killed in the tornado will mourn for years. They will be reminded of their loved ones every time strong winds roll through town. And, many survivors will feel a tinge of fear each time spring storm clouds gather. And, while most of the physical damage has been repaired, there are daily reminders of the storm’s fury. The remnants of an American flag stuck in the top of tree are still visible. I always viewed the tattered flag as a source of strength, a show of defiance. The sight lines in the portion of town leveled by the storm are radically different today. Some structures weren’t rebuilt. The Lutheran Church is just a memory, as are the buildings that housed the Senior Center and the strip mall at the Walmart parking lot. And, the tornado’s path is readily traceable by the lack of trees. Despite the loss of life and property, life in Harrisburg has resumed the day-to-day normalcy of small-town America. Yet, the reminders of the tornado linger just below the surface. The smallest, most insignificant things can trigger a flashback to that morning. It might be the sight of Christmas lights dangling from an oak tree in my front yard, bottles of drinking water stockpiled in corner of a convenience store, or simply the sound of a chain saw. Remarkably, in retrospect, not all the memories are bad. I remember the sense of deep relief when I learned all our immediate neighbors escaped without injury. I remember a deep gratitude and humility when a complete stranger stopped in the street to offer me a pair of gloves as I dragged tree limbs off my front porch. I remember being moved to tears by the constant stream of volunteers offering to help clean up the yard. I almost felt bad I didn’t have more work for them. Life in Harrisburg has resumed the day-to-day normalcy of small-town America.Yet, the reminders of the tornado linger just below the surface. LES WINKELER Off Target SEE WINKELER / PAGE 2 THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN SUNDAY ,FEBRUARY 24, 2013 1 SEE TORNADO / PAGE 2

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Leap Day Tornado: One Year Later


Page 1: Battered – Not Beaten

Weather spotters reported the tornado touched downat 4:38 a.m. about 6 miles southeast of Marion and afew minutes later, about 2 miles southwest ofHarrisburg.

It soon roared through town destroying residences inseveral blocks of a south neighborhood known asDorrisville, flattening businessesalong a stretch of SouthCommercial Street and bringingdown a newly built subdivisionwhere six of the casualtiesoccurred. There was damage toresidences near and toHarrisburg Medical Center.Continuing its northeasterlypath, the tornado struckportions of Southeastern IllinoisCollege and struck Ridgway inGallatin County, destroying St.Joseph Catholic Church, severalbusinesses and homes.

Wind speeds reached 170 mph, ranking the tornado asan EF4, meaning it belonged onthe second most powerfulclassification on Enhanced FujitaScale, according to the NationalWeather Service.

There were six immediate deaths in Harrisburg fromthe tornado strike — Randy Rann, 64; Donna Rann, 61,Jaylynn Ferrell, 22, Mary Osman, 75, Linda Hull, 74, andGreg Swierk, 50.

A seventh victim, Don Smith, 70, died March 7 inDeaconess Hospital of Evansville, Ind., where he wastreated for blunt force injuries.

An eight victim, R. Blaine Mauney, 74, died May 31,from major injuries suffered in the tornado.

A final assessment showed 104 structures damagedincluding 66 deemed total losses.



THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOSeveral flattened homes are seen Feb. 29, 2012, in the southeast corner of Harrisburg.


One of nature’s mostpowerful cataclysms — atornado — roaredthrough much of Saline

and Gallatin counties onFeb. 29, 2012, claiming eightlives and causing millions ofdollars of damage.

Wind speedsreached 170 mph,

ranking thetornado as an

EF4, meaning itbelonged on the

second mostpowerful

classification onEnhanced FujitaScale, accordingto the National

Weather Service.

Mother Nature’sfury on display

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOEmergency crews comb through some of the damage in Harrisburg.

Recovery filled with emotion

Most of the visible woundshave been healed. Homeshave been rebuilt and

repaired.However, the EF-4 tornado that

devastated part of Harrisburg onFeb. 29, 2012, inflicted woundsthat will take years to heal.

Families of the eight peoplekilled in the tornado will mournfor years.

They will be reminded of theirloved ones every time strongwinds roll through town. And,many survivors will feel a tinge offear each time spring storm cloudsgather.

And, while most of the physicaldamage has been repaired, thereare daily reminders of the storm’sfury.

The remnants of an Americanflag stuck in the top of tree arestill visible.

I always viewed the tattered flagas a source of strength, a show ofdefiance.

The sight lines in the portion oftown leveled by the storm areradically different today.

Some structures weren’t rebuilt.The Lutheran Church is just amemory, as are the buildings thathoused the Senior Center and thestrip mall at the Walmart parkinglot. And, the tornado’s path isreadily traceable by the lack oftrees.

Despite the loss of life andproperty, life in Harrisburg hasresumed the day-to-day normalcyof small-town America. Yet, thereminders of the tornado lingerjust below the surface.

The smallest, most insignificantthings can trigger a flashback to

that morning. It might be thesight of Christmas lights danglingfrom an oak tree in my front yard,bottles of drinking waterstockpiled in corner of aconvenience store, or simply thesound of a chain saw.

Remarkably, in retrospect, notall the memories are bad.

I remember the sense of deeprelief when I learned all ourimmediate neighbors escapedwithout injury. I remember a deepgratitude and humility when acomplete stranger stopped in thestreet to offer me a pair of glovesas I dragged tree limbs off myfront porch.

I remember being moved to tearsby the constant stream ofvolunteers offering to help cleanup the yard. I almost felt bad Ididn’t have more work for them.

Life in Harrisburg has resumed the day-to-day normalcy ofsmall-town America. Yet, the reminders of the tornado linger just

below the surface.






Page 2: Battered – Not Beaten


WINKELER: Recovery from the Leap Day Tornado has had its ups and downsFROM PAGE 1

I remember the HarrisburgHigh School football teamattacking the debris in myneighbor’s yard.

I remember the smiling faces ofthe men, women and childrendoling out free lunches at theMethodist Church.

I remember the feelingunfettered joy at simplemilestones — getting the tarps offthe roof, getting the plywood offthe windows, having powerrestored.

Finally, I remember going tobed emotionally and physicallyexhausted each night.

I remember thinking “Geez, we

got a lot done today,” as I settledinto bed. And, the next morningI’d wake up, look out the windowand think, “We’ll never get donewith this.”

We did get done.With the help of family, friends,

neighbors and strangers, our lifehas been restored to what passesfor normal.

At times it was joyful. At timesit was sad and exasperating.

But, we survived. That’s thebottom line.

LES WINKELER is the sports editorfor The Southern Illinoisan.Contact him at [email protected], or call 618-351-5088.

TORNADO: Harrisburg, surrounding area hit by massive twister Feb. 29, 2012FROM PAGE 1

Cleanup was estimated at $5.4 million, according to theFederal Emergency ManagementAgency that denied an Illinoisrequest for recovery aid becausethe numbers did not meet a$17.3 million threshold set by theagency as a qualifying mark forfederal assistance.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Greggwho had been leading therecovery effort became ill thesame afternoon the FEMA newsarrived about aid denial. He wasrushed to Deaconess Hospital ofEvansville, Ind., where he wasdiagnosed with perforateddiverticulitis and eventuallymade a full recovery.

In wake of the FEMA

announcement, state agenciesstepped forward under theauspice of Gov. Pat Quinn andpledged up to $13 million in relieffunding for the recovery effort.

Much of Harrisburg and thesurrounding area have beenrebuilt. But the scars remain forthose who stood near or in thepath of the tornado.

“There was no one in this town

who was not touched by this.You knew one of the people hurtor killed or who lost property.You could not escape it. Whenyou are in the midst of it, youwonder,” said former HarrisburgCity Treasurer Charlie Willduring an August interview.

[email protected]

EDITOR’S NOTE: SportsEditor Les Winkeler lives inHarrisburg. He was at homewhen the tornado hit thetown. This column ran onlinethe day of the tornado and inthe newspaper the next day.

Leap Day got off to arousing start. It wasabout 5 a.m. when I

heard my wife get out ofbed. The next sound Iheard was rain or hailpounding against the sideof the house.

But there was anothersound that was moretroubling. I thought I washearing a siren in thedistance. The weather wassevere enough that Iopened the window nextto the bed to make sure.

The whistling windmade the siren difficult tohear, but there was nodoubt this wasn’t a drill.

By the time I got out ofbed I heard my wifeyelling, “Grab someclothes.”

Somehow, in the darkand on autopilot, I gotdressed. Now the windwas getting more andmore intense.

“We need to go to a safeplace,” my wife said.

Because we have nobasement, the interiorhallway where we werestanding was where weneeded to be.

“This is it,” I told her.Then we grabbed each

other and slid to the floor.The next few moments,

I’m guessing it was nomore than 10 seconds,were surreal. The roar ofthe wind echoed throughour ears. It wasn’t theproverbial sound of anonrushing train, but it wasloud.

We heard glass breakingall around us, and weheard crashes in thedistance.

Then, just as quickly asit came, the wind wasgone.

“Where’s Beau?” Judyasked.

I hadn’t seen our dog inthe few minutes we hadbeen out of bed.

We both started callingfor him, and in a fewmoments we heard theclicking of toenails againsthardwood floor. It was areassuring sound.

The next few momentswere spent fumblingaround in the dark,looking for flashlights.The going wastreacherous as brokenglass littered the floors.

I pushed open abedroom door to find partof a neighbor’s housetrailer had broken throughour patio doors. Thewindows in the room werebroken out.

In the meantime, Judyhad secured a couple offlashlights, and wesurveyed the damage. Wewere lucky. Our house wasdamaged, but notstructurally.

After a quick survey, Iwent to the front door tocheck the yard. Beams oflight were shining from acouple directions.

Neighbors were all outchecking their property,and going house to housechecking on everyone’ssafety. Fortunately,everyone in my immediateneighborhood was fine.

Just a block or so eastthe picture was muchdifferent. Roofs werelifted off houses, otherstructures weredestroyed. The wind, ortornado, picked up afriend’s pickup truck andmoved it 30 feet.

The FS building, justtwo blocks from ourhome, was flattened.Everywhere people werewalking around, makingsure their neighbors werefine.

And, in just a matter ofan hour, chain saws andtractors started cleaningup the debris.

I’ve never experiencedanything like this.

LES WINKELER is the sportseditor for The SouthernIllinoisan. Contact him [email protected], or call 618-351-5088.

Riding outthe storm

Jaylynn FerrellJaylynn Ferrell, 22 and the youngest victim of the tornado, was

an RN at Harrisburg Medical Center Special Care and amember of First Baptist Church in Harrisburg, where shetaught Sunday school.

Lynda Lou HullLynda Lou Hull, 74, died in the Leap Day Tornado. She was a

member of the Raleigh Baptist Church. Hull worked at aHarrisburg department store for more than 20 years and atseveral banks including First National Bank in Harrisburg.

Blaine MauneyBlaine Mauney, 74, died about three months after the Leap

Day Tornado. Mauney was a coal miner who retired in 1991from the Eagle No. 2 coal mine in Shawneetown. He was alsoa member of of the Sons of American Legion Squadron Post167 in Harrisburg.

Mary OsmanMary Osman, 75, died in the tornado. She worked as a hat

maker and supervisor for Harrisburg Manufacturing, andlater worked at Joy’s Hallmark. She attended Walnut GroveChurch.

Donna Rann and Randall ‘Randy’ RannDonna Rann, 61, died as a result of injuries suffered in the

Leap Day Tornado. She worked as a secretary for the U.S.Forest Service in Harrisburg. She was married to Randall“Randy” Rann, 64, who also died in the tornado. He worked inthe parts department at Fabick in Marion before hisretirement. The couple married in 1970 and were members ofLebanon Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Galatia.

Donald ‘Don’ SmithDonald “Don” Smith, 70, died a week after the tornado. He was

a retired coal miner and also was a member of the Sons ofthe American Legion of the Equality McLain-Glover Post 595.His wife, Kay, was injured in the tornado and his dog,Maggie, suffered fatal injuries.

Greg SwierkGreg Swierk, 50, died as a result of injuries he suffered in the

tornado. He was a native of Chicago. Swierk was a U.S. Armyveteran and was buried with military graveside rites and flagceremony.

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOResidents bow their heads in prayer during a community worship service March 4 at Harrisburg High School.

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOThe community and hospital staff gather Nov. 1 for a dedication ceremony for a memorial garden at Harrisburg Medical Center.




Donna Rann

Randall Rann

A community remembersLeap Day tornado claimed the lives of eight

Page 3: Battered – Not Beaten



Brooke Hill(top, right), ofCarrier Mills,looks aroundat some ofthe damageas she andfriend, CeraWise, helpclean up thewhat’s left ofa houseMarch 1.

A strip malljust off ofRollie MooreDrive wasflattened.

Page 4: Battered – Not Beaten


Despite being crippled by theLeap Day Tornado, theHarrisburg Walmart scrambledto reopen and join otherbusinesses in aiding thecommunity in its recovery.

Mike Gibbs, a merchandisingsupervisor at Walmart, clockedin the morning of Feb. 29 at4:52 a.m., only minutes beforethe tornado hit the supercenter.

Gibbs’ typical morning ofpreparing the store for the dayquickly became a morning ofchaos focused on firstsurviving, and then accountingfor co-workers.

“I know they told everybodyto go back to the hallway,”Gibbs said.

“It was like a wind tunnel,everything was suckingthrough there.”

Gibbs went back out to thestore to grab a flashlight.

“That’s when I heard the roofof the garden center comingoff,” he added. “As I wasrunning, I could see the frontend and all the signs comingdown through the ceiling.

Once the storm passed, thosein the store began trying toaccount for each other. Asdaylight broke over the twistedstore, Gibbs and his associatesgot a clear picture of thedestruction and the workahead.

Rhonda Bottoms, Walmartmanager, said the storesupports the community, andalthough damaged during thetornado, worked to provideanything the communityneeded.

“We were on our knees in thisplace,” she said. “I had to get itup and running.”

Bottoms said her regionalbosses asked her what shewanted to do as far as thedamaged store. Her response:Take care of human life first,and then get the building backup so people could have basicsupplies.

“I felt a strong desire to get(the store) back open,” Bottoms

said. “We needed normalcy inthe community. It wouldn’t benormal without Walmart open.”

Bottoms said reopeningdepended on the fire marshaland health inspector signing offon the facility. In a matter ofdays, Bottoms said the storewas open, its pharmacy wasoperating and the store wasaiding the city, the state policeand volunteers with therecovery effort.

She said a number of heremployees lost everything, but

still showed up to work to helpothers.

Pepsi MidAmericaJohn Rains, executive vice

president and general managerat Pepsi MidAmerica, said theMarion-based company has anumber of family members,friends and customers who livein Harrisburg. Not respondingto the disaster was not anoption.

“Following the devastating

storm that occurred inHarrisburg, Pepsi MidAmericahad volunteers on sight offeringwater, cold drinks and physicallabor to assist those who hadexperienced loss,” Rains said.

“It was wonderful to see the many church groups,businesses, civic organizations

and others all pulling togetherto help out wherever theycould. We are proud to be a partof Southern Illinois andthankful of the many blessingswe share.”

[email protected]

Big business played vital role

‘We needed normalcy in the community. It wouldn’t benormal without Walmart open.’


Walmart, Pepsi important to response, recovery

AARON EISENHAUER / THE SOUTHERNShoppers enter and exit Walmart on Feb. 6 in Harrisburg.



Page 5: Battered – Not Beaten


Telling a story about thevolunteers in theaftermath of last year’stornado is difficult, partlybecause there were somany.

Partly, because therewas so much to do, andbecause so much has beendone. And partly, becausetheir story has yet to findan ending.

Those in this storydidn’t necessarily want tobe, and they mostdefinitely do not want tobe called heroes. If one is ahero, they all are.

All 8,000 of them.Maybe it’s 8,001. Does theguy that intently drovefrom Chicago to hand-over $1,000 count as avolunteer? If donorscount, then that numberfalls well short ofrepresenting theoutpouring that occurred.

“We had a drawer backthere that we were justputting money in it wascoming in so fast,” saidSharon Behnke-Fleege, amission coordinator at theMethodist Church inHarrisburg. She is also thecase manager for STORM,but more on that grouplater.

Some did what they didbecause instincts toldthem to, such as the coalminers who emerged fromtheir undergroundworkplace with the earthstill masking their faces todescend upon a newdarkness in the search forsurvivors.

Or there was a local deli,all but its kitchen blownaway, contributing foodthat day for the hundredsalready on site.

Or a city worker, hishouse among thehundreds wrecked orseverely damaged, riskinghis life to shut off a gasline with a simple wrench.

“There were so manyselfless acts,” HarrisburgMayor Eric Gregg said.“There were so manypeople that never had theirname in the paper, thatwere never on television,but I know for a fact thatwe had city workers thatdid some amazing heroicthings that day.”

Others, within days, hadput their daily lives onhold to help in any waythey could.

By Jay Thompson’scount, athletes andcoaches from 22 schoolsacross the state arrivedwith aid either in the formof a donation or tovolunteer by the day afterthe tornado, among themthe University of Illinoisbaseball team andSouthern IllinoisUniversity footballplayers. Most were high

school athletes.Thompson, the athletic

director and baseballcoach at Harrisburg HighSchool, himself didn’tmake it to work Feb. 29.

“I grabbed a bag of toolsand a chain saw and justtook off,” Thompsonrecalled when he could getno farther in his truck inone affected area.

Seeing police,ambulances, a formerstudent clearly with fearon her face, an entireapartment building goneand people trapped intheir basements,Thompson and manyothers returned with theirchain saws for days upondays.

“It was panicky andfrustrating becauseeverybody needed help atthe same time,” he said.“But lots of people wouldjust come to help.”

Getting organizedAt first, it was chaos.Mission groups from

across the country, whosesole purpose is to bringrelief from disaster orother social ills, werearriving by busloads.

An avalanche of money,food, clothes and morevolunteers was instantlyoverwhelming.

It didn’t take long forvolunteers to step up.

The American Red Crossand the Salvation Armywere on hand, so wasOperation Blessing ofVirginia, a travelingmission group that inHarrisburg, took chargeof managing thevolunteers.

But it was the churchesin Harrisburg, throughtheir ministerial alliance,that in days beganorganizing and ultimatelyestablished STORM, amulti-faceted networkdesigned to identifysurvivors, assess theirneeds, seek funding andprovide volunteers, whilealso securing food andhousing resources forvolunteers.

Through STORM alone,more than 6,000volunteers helped some300 families, nearly all of

which had no insurance orwere under-insured,including both propertyand renters’ coverage.

While much of the costfor rebuilding was coveredby $3 million in statedisaster funding, someproperty owners wouldnot qualify.

STORM workers,volunteers themselves,continue efforts today tohelp those families securemoney donated toindividual non-profits.They also lined up outsidevolunteers to rebuildhomes. One STORMvolunteer is an attorney,helping families navigatethe red tape attached tothe state funds.

“Everybody that was anoriginal (STORM)volunteer is still around,”group coordinator JerryKing said. “There is nomoney involved, in fact itcost us money. We paid forour own gas and phones.It’s been awesome.”

To serve the needs ofvolunteers, churches andother organizations, theSaline County Chamber ofCommerce and OperationNow out of Norris Cityamong them, would rotateserving meals to them.

Housing was a differentmatter.

Originally, theDorrisville Baptist Churchhad planned on building anew sanctuary. Provingtoo costly, the churchinstead built a multi-purpose room about sixyears ago.

Unaffected by thetornado, despite heavydamage near it, the churchand its multi-purposeroom — complete withshowers, a kitchen,cafeteria, a gym and ahigh-tech generator —would be home for mostvolunteers.

There, too, their needswere met, through mealcoordination (Dorrisvilleserved breakfast), “towel-washing day,” cots andmore, said housingcoordinator Judy Taylor.

Anywhere from 20 to100 people would be at thechurch every night fromMarch until aboutSeptember, she said.

Eventually, a showertrailer was brought in,requiring more volunteersat the church.

“By September, we reallywere in compassionfatigue mode,” Taylor saidwhile praising volunteerlaborers along the way.“You couldn’t get away.You had to be on-call allthe time.”

Herself a church missionmember, Taylor also calledthe experience fulfilling.

“It was wonderfulbecause we were all of thesame mind that we are allhere to help,” she said.

While work began totaper off as late as October,the last chapter of theHarrisburg volunteers maynot be written until laterthis year.

It is already anticipatedthat a group of farmers willbe arriving this spring tostart landscaping andplanting new trees,

STORM’s King said.Others may be joiningthem.

“They’re calling rightnow,” he said.

More than likely, theywon’t want to be calledheroes, either.

[email protected]

‘It was panicky and frustrating becauseeverybody needed help at the same time. But lots

of people would just come to help.’JAY THOMPSON


THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTODeidra Coleson (left) and Ruth Lantz with Life Church hand out hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and drinks across the street from the most damaged area of Harrisburg.

THE NUMBERSAt least 8,000 volunteers, consisting of local

residents, regional churches, schools andgovernments, nationwide mission groups and nationalorganizations.

More than 80,000 hours of volunteered labor.More than $650,000 in private donations.More than 300 cases of households who had no

insurance or were under-insured were serviced bySTORM. By rough estimates, more than 500residences had some damage.

Three semitrailer loads of clothes and food weredistributed by STORM alone.

Anywhere from 20 to 100 volunteers housed at theDorrisville Baptist Church from March throughSeptember.


An outpouring of support Volunteer effort inspiring, overwhelming

SEIEC |remembers and honors

those that lost their lives, those that survived

and the many volunteers that aided in the cleanup

and rebuilding efforts in Harrisburg and Ridgway

following the 2012 Leap Day tornado.

585 Highway 142 South, P.O. Box 251,

Eldorado, IL 62930(618) 273-2611 or (800) 833-2611

Emergency & Outages: (877) 399-8405

Please visit our website at

Page 6: Battered – Not Beaten


On Feb. 28 last year, Eric Greggwent to bed questioning why hebecame mayor.

As the veil of darkness liftedover Harrisburg the nextmorning, Gregg had his answer.

To this day, Gregg carries withhim at all times the names of theeight people killed that horrificFeb. 29 morning.

“I carry their names with meevery where I go. I will neverforget. Every meeting, everyplace I go, the names of those welost are with me,” Gregg saidearlier this month.

“I certainly owe it to them to dothe best I can to keep this citymoving forward,” he said, hisvoice dropping into anintrospective whisper filled withsorrow but also determination.

Being a small-town mayor ishard. Every decision isscrutinized. Call after call aboutovergrown weeds, leaky pipes,cracking sidewalks. Throw inlabor strife, anxiety over theeconomy, crime, taxes and thedaily reality of the unexpected —being a small-town mayor is notwhat it’s cracked up to be.

Feb. 28 was a particularly badday for Gregg, so much so heshared with his wife hisfrustrations that had boiled overto the point of questioningwhether he was up to the task ofbeing mayor, an $800 a monthjob.

Later, he prayed before callingit a day.

Everything changed the nextmorning.

“The next day, I got it. OK, allright Lord, now I can look backand draw off all the boards I saton, all the places I’ve been, all theexperiences I’ve had, all thecontacts I’ve made — all this nowcomes into play.

“I now have to do what I haveto do,” he said.

Within hours, sirens stillreeling, throngs of people diggingthrough the debris of what oncewere homes in search ofsurvivors, ignoring the grippingcall of shock in the face of death

and destruction, Harrisburg wasthrust into the national spotlight,and Gregg was its spokesman.

Seeing what he saw, strangersthroughout the region rushing tothe aid of those they did notknow, the questions of theprevious day were replaced withadmiration for those herepresents and those beyond hisjurisdiction.

That day, in front of a nationalaudience throughout acontinuous news feed, he spokefor all of Southern Illinois.

“I felt like, and I still do today,that I am a spokesman for a greatgroup of people, not only the city,employees, our citizens, but aregion. I witnessed the best ofpeople in the worst of times.

“There were so many heroes ofthe day and so many since,”Gregg said.

The actions and giving of

others combined with words ofencouragement from familieswho lost loved ones has beenGregg’s inspiration since, he said.Being hugged by a young child ingratitude for his work helps, too.

Especially when a rupturedintestine that almost cost Gregghis life intercedes just monthsafter the tornado. He’s been backon the job, several surgeries later,for a while now.

But he never lost focus, he said,and still hasn’t even as the citycouncil is challenged on wheremoney should be spent in therebuilding efforts, or as other city

business demands attention.Most of the rebuilding has been

done with about 20 percent ofhomes still needing to bereplaced. A strip mall gutted inthe storm also has yet to bereplaced, but Gregg said he isconfident that work will becompleted.

Talk with developers about anew mall is ongoing, he said, butother projects unrelated to thestorm representing about $30million in development, also aremoving closer to reality.

If there is any silver lining as aresult of the destruction, it is the

resilience and dedication thatwas on display for the world towatch in the storm’s aftermath.

“We will rebuild,” became amantra for the city, and a sellingpoint to developers, Gregg said.

“People like to be aroundwinners, and people like to bearound people that overcome,and that’s who we are,” Greggsaid. “This is a community ofgood people that know how towin and win the right way, bypersevering and by being resilientand working hard and nevergiving up.

“That’s what I have taken awaya year later,” he added.

But if self-doubt everdoes creep up again, he’ll havea list of names he will neverforget.

[email protected]

‘I felt like, and I still do today, that I am a spokesman for agreat group of people, not only the city, employees, our

citizens, but a region. I witnessed the best of people in theworst of times.’


Eric Gregg: Leading through tragedyMayor became region’s spokesman

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERNHarrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg is pictured Feb. 14 in Harrisburg.


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Page 7: Battered – Not Beaten


Within hours of thedevastating Leap DayTornado, offers of helpflooded into the city ofHarrisburg.

Thousands ofvolunteers, truckloads ofsupplies and monetarydonations came into thecity, but without acoordinated effort, thehelp would not have goneto those that needed it.

Dozens of residentsstepped up to connectresources to peopleaffected by the tornado.

The Rev. ChrisWinkleman ofHarrisburg’s First BaptistChurch was one of thosepeople. The churchbecame a relief center andrepository for supplies inthe hours after thetornado.

“That whole day and formonths afterward we wereoverwhelmed;overwhelmed by thedifficulty and sadness inthe community but also bythe support, energy, timeand talents sacrificed onour community’s behalf,”he said. “One of ourbiggest challenges was thevolume of need in thecommunity. Houses gonemeant everything in themwas gone too — dishes,food, toothbrushes,everything.”

Also challenging was thevolume of donatedsupplies, he said.

“At first we tried to keeptrack of who broughtwhat, but it became toooverwhelming,” he said.“Supplies came pouring infrom all over, in semi-trucks to shopping bags.There were times whenthe entire building wasfilled with donatedsupplies.”

The large-scale responsewas helped by disasterrelief organizations likeOperation Blessing, hesaid.

“We were all learning onthe fly and were sothankful for the help wereceived from OperationBlessing. They came infrom out of town andhelped us manageresources and volunteers.They were priceless,”Winkleman said.

Operation Blessing wasalso helping thecommunity set up short-and long-term response,according to Jerry King,who helped coordinate aneffort called STORM,Social Services,Temporary Housing, OneStop Center,Rehabilitation of Housesand Matching andManagement ofResources.

“Operation Blessing gotthis whole thing going.They set up a system andthen turned it over to thecommunity. When theywere going to leave, a lotof people stepped up totake over,” King said.

The effort, whichcontinues today, identifiedneeds and matched themwith resources, fromfinding clothing for peoplewho had none tomanaging the thousandsof volunteers to helpingrebuild homes destroyedin the tornado.

“It was a matter oforganization and trying toserve as many people as

we could,” King said.For example, Raymond

James financial adviserMichael Tison helpedmanage the monetarydonations made byindividuals, organizationsand businesses all over thecountry.

“The money nevertouched our hands. Wewanted to coordinate, notcontrol, the money. Wematched donations to thepeople who needed themost help, the uninsuredor underinsured, thepeople who may haveslipped through thecracks,” he said.

The Southern IllinoisCommunity Foundationwas important to thefinancial efforts, he said,setting up a disaster relieffund to handle some of thedonations.

“We’ve given out closeto $500,000 to over 100different households,” hesaid. “From money forclothing to new furnitureto dental work for thoseinjured during the storm.”

All three men stressedthe importance and valueof local volunteers in theefforts.

“It’s been fantastic to bea part of this small city.Everyone workedtogether,” Tison said.“Everything everybody didgives much to beoptimistic about for thefuture.”

[email protected] Twitter: @beckymalkovich

‘It’s been fantastic to be a part of this small city.Everyone worked together. Everything

everybody did gives much to be optimisticabout for the future.’


It takes a villageResidents step up in time of need

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOA worker walks in front of the Old National Bank in Harrisburg on March 1.

Bank plans memorial siteTHE SOUTHERN

The entire community,including many OldNational associates andclients, were affected bythe Leap Day Tornado thattore through Harrisburg.

Herb Klickner, marketpresident, has beeninstrumental in leadingthe relief efforts sincethen.

He serves on a memorial committeecomprised of communityleaders who have beenraising funds to purchase aspecial monument tohonor the victims who lost

their lives.In addition to funding,

Old National has donatedthe land for the memorial,which is near the ONBbanking center at 719Rollie Moore Drive.

This banking center alsosuffered extensive damagein the storm. A specialmilestone was celebratedDec.18, when agroundbreaking ceremonyfor the memorial tookplace. Family members ofthe victims were therewith shovels in hand.

Harrisburg Mayor EricGregg, Fire Chief BillSummers, chair of the

memorial committee,Klickner and some of thefamily members all spokeat the event.

“Mayor Gregg and ChiefSummers spoke veryhighly of Old National andthanked us for oursupport,” Klickner said.“And several familymembers thanked me forwhat we have done to helpthe community and tomemorialize their lostloved ones. All weregrateful and some tearyeyed, when I told them wewanted each family tokeep the shovels they heldat the groundbreaking.”

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOAn aerial photo of the area impacted by the Leap Day Tornado is shown Dec. 19.


Though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, we shall not fear.

Ps 146.

Your Neighbors at Harrisburg 1st United Methodist Church

Living the Compassionate Love of God

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERNFirst Baptist Church Pastor Chris Winkleman (top), who helped lead the effort in collectingdonations and distributing them from the emergency distribution center, and Jerry King ofHarrisburg, who helped organize and is still leading STORM, a volunteer effort providing socialservices, temporary housing, rehabilitation, rebuilding and monetary resources to stormvictims, are pictured Feb. 14.

Page 8: Battered – Not Beaten


The emotional aftermath forthose and their loved onesstruck by a merciless Feb 29,2012, tornado is best describedliterally by Kim Anglin ofHarrisburg who along with herhusband David suffered majorinjuries when their house wasdestroyed.

“It turned our house upsidedown, dumped us out and kepton going,” said Anglin said

during an August interview.Another Harrisburg resident,

Lynda Clemmons, who saw herhouse destroyed said, “I thinkthe tornado was moreemotionally challenging thananything. We’re all sufferingfrom post-traumatic stressdisorder,” she said during the

same interview.A year has passed since the

tornado took its toll. Much ofthe immediate post-traumaticstress disorder has been treatedbut the feelings of helplessnessand terror remain near thesurface.

“I think we’ve all been

affected in some way. Beforethe tornado, when storm sirenswent off, I didn’t pay that muchattention. The storm has mademe much more sensitive now,”said Angie Hampton, chiefexecutive at Egyptian Public &Mental Health Department inEldorado.

Egyptian staff providedimmediate mental assistance inthe wake of the tornado. Theyhelped victims traumatized bythe event by giving them ashort-term education aboutwhat was going on and basictools to help them cope.Children in particular werehaving trouble sleeping. Therewere lots of instances of shorttempers, Hampton said.

“These were normalresponses to an abnormalsituation,” Hampton said.

‘It’s a different culture here in Southern Illinois. People care about their neighbors.We continue to thrive through all we’ve been through.’


THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOJane Buti of Terre Haute wipes her nose after removing her a few posessions from her damaged car Wednesday. Buti had been visisting former schoolmate, Utha Angelly of Harrisburg.

More than physical damageHealing process goes far beyond what can be seen


Your bank. For community. Member FDIC

Lives were changed forever when the Leap Day tornado tore a path through

Southern Illinois. Now, nearly a year later, the communities of Harrisburg and

neighboring Ridgway continue to heal. Old National Bank is proud to support

the efforts to restore homes and businesses that were damaged or destroyed.

We thank all those who assisted us in the rebuilding of our Harrisburg South

banking center and our communities.

As your community banking partner, it is an honor to collaborate on the

memorial project which pays tribute to the victims who lost their lives.

Though we continue to mourn and remember those who were lost,

we know our community will recover and move confidently into the future.

Harrisburg 2 E Locust St 252-5800 • 719 Rollie Moore Dr 253-1260

Old National associates and their family members from Indiana, Kentucky and Illinoisvolunteered with clean-up efforts.

On March 16, 2012, Old National presented a $10,000 checkto the Red Cross of Southern Illinois in Harrisburg to supportrecovery efforts.

Page 9: Battered – Not Beaten

There were many ofthose same responsesdown the road, monthslater, by victims who wereinitially resilient to thestorm devastation. SalineCounty resident SharonBehnke-Fleege whovolunteered hercounseling skills learnedthrough her work forIllinois Department ofChildren and FamilyServices, talked about aHarrisburg familyunconsciously gatheringin the middle of a roomwherever they were whenskies got cloudy.

Gradually, by Augustthe number of referrals toEgyptian as a result of thestorm began to decrease,

Hampton said.“Our schools did an

excellent job,” Hamptonsaid about schooladministrators allowingchild psychologists tovisit with students.

Another therapeutictool was seeing thecommunity immediatelyrespond to a rebuildingeffort.

“People really pulledtogether. You just felt astrong sense ofcommunity,” Hamptonsaid.

There were acts ofkindness to help residentsheal. Harrisburg MedicalCenter administratorsand board membersallocated money from

donations to build amemorial garden at thesouth entrance of thehospital. A service washeld in November to openthe garden with manyfamily members ofvictims in attendance.

HMC Chief ExecutiveOfficer Rodney Smithabout the service alsosees the therapeutic valuein the rebuilding effort.

“It’s a different culturehere in Southern Illinois.People care about theirneighbors. We continue tothrive through all we’vebeen through,” Smithsaid.

[email protected]

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOSupporters line East Sloan Street as the funeral procession of Mary Osman, 75, passes by March 3 in Harrisburg.


Harrisburg District Library 2 West Walnut, Harrisburg, IL 62946 618-253-7455 voice; 618-252-1239 fax

Monday – Friday 9 AM – 8 PM; Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM; Sunday 1 PM – 5 PM “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” Ray Bradbury

As soon as the librarians learned of the Leap Day Tornado, they opened the library to give Harrisburg citizens the opportunity to contact family members via computers. For some Harrisburg residents, the library provides their Internet connection. Harrisburg District Library supplied meeting rooms for the STORM members and Southern Illinois University architectural students to meet with tornado victims. Photographs that had been gathered were displayed in the Alice H. Barnes Conference Room to be identified and recovered by loved ones. The library hosted the debut of 4:56 A.M. The Story of the February 29, 2012 Tornado and sold hundreds of books. Harrisburg District Library plays a vital role in the lives of Harrisburg residents every day.

Page 10: Battered – Not Beaten


Cram & Ferguson, anarchitectural firm fromConcord, Mass., with aspecialty in traditionalarchitecture has beenselected to design a newCatholic church on thesite of St. Joseph CatholicChurch destroyed in theFeb. 29, 2012, tornado.

“Buildings communicatethings that can be true orfalse. The church we buildcommunicates somethingabout the house of Godand we want it to tell thetruth,” said the Rev. StevenBeatty who has beennamed parishadministrator of the newlyformed parish — St. KateriTekakwitha, Lily of theMohawks, in honor of St.Kateri who was canonizedOct. 21 by Pope BenedictXVI.

There is no precisetimetable for the newconstruction project.Beatty said he and parishbuilding committeemembers are hoping tofinalize a schematic designearly this summer.

A Cram & Fergusondesigner has visited theparish a few times forface-to-face meetings.When constructionbegins, the designer isexpected to resume visitsmonthly.

After a design isapproved, the project fallsinto the hands ofconstruction,documentation andengineering experts towork up parts andcomponents to be put out

for bid.Much of that stage will

be contingent on howmuch money will beavailable. There is afundraising campaign nowunder way, Beatty said,noting the new church willhave a capacity for up to350 people.

Donations have pouredin from as far away asRochester, N.Y., NewLondon, Conn., Seattleand San Diego. Churcheswithin the Diocese ofBelleville will be taking upsecond collections duringSunday mass services,Beatty said.

According to a parishbulletin, there will be aLeap Day Tornadoanniversary observation at6:30 p.m. March 1 in thegym adjoining the newchurch site with Stationsof the Cross followed by ameal and a specialpresentation to formallykick off the fundraisingcampaign.

“Now that we have an

architect starting design,there is a real positivefeeling and atmosphereabout something we areaccomplishing. Much ofthe feeling in thecommunity is the tornadois not behind us until wesee the big steeple,” Beattysaid.

In addition to a newchurch building, a newGallatin County churchparish that will consist ofthe new Ridgway church,St. Joseph in Equality; St.Patrick in the PondSettlement; andImmaculate Conception inShawneetown have beencombined into the newlyformed St. KateriTekakwitha, Lily of theMohawks Parish.

Beatty, anticipates arotating Mass scheduleamong the churches willcontinue. There are about350 families within theparish, he said.

[email protected]

Ridgway parish working to rebuildPlans under way for project


In downtown Ridgway, thesoon-to-come reopening of theGallatin True Value Hardwarestore on East Edwards Streetreflects the optimism andaccomplishment of rebuilding atown of nearly 900 people thatwas hit hard by an EF4 tornadoon Feb. 29.

“We are thrilled True Valuedecided to remain in business.The Drone boys are nearingretirement and they decided tokeep it (store) in the community.It is one of our biggest taxbases,” said Mayor RebeccaMitchell.

Shortly after she wasinterviewed, Mitchell walkedacross the street from her officein the Ridgway Village WaterDepartment building on EastEdwards Street to visit with TomDrone at the True Value store.He operates and owns the familybusiness with his brothers Steveand David.

“It’s pretty important to me.It’s my livelihood,” Tom Dronesaid about a decision to rebuildthe 10,000 square-foot storeflattened by the tornado andreopen it sometime in April.

“It’s a livelihood to the villageof Ridgway too. You are big helpto us,” Mitchell said to Drone.

During the earlier interview,Mitchell spoke about the storm,the rebuilding effort and recentRidgway highlights.

“I have been excited about allof the work. We are about 75percent of the way there,” shesaid about rebuilding the townthat suffered no deaths, but diddisplace about 160 residents.

“We’ve lost two families thathave moved on. We also lost twobusinesses. Consumers Gasmoved to Carmi and Mimmo’sPizza went to Shawneetown.Anything you take out is a loss,”she said.

There is still money left overfrom an Illinois Department ofCommerce & Economic half-million dollar grant awarded toRidgway in the spring. Thatmoney has gone to repairing sixhomes and rebuilding a house.Wabash Area Development istaking care of expenses forremodeling five additionalhomes with little or no

insurance coverage that weredamaged in the storm. RidgwayDisaster Fund is paying for workon three other homes, Mitchellsaid.

“We have pretty well kept upwith what needed to berepaired,” Mitchell said.

Other donors like BlackDiamond Harley-Davidson ofMarion has donated money topurchase lost household itemssuch as ovens and refrigerators.A “Rebuilding Southern IllinoisFund” organized by state Sen.Gary Forby, D-Benton, tocentralize other donations suchas those from InternationalUnion of Operating EngineersLocals 318 and 399, chipped in$6,500 to the Ridgwayrebuilding effort.

There is still structural work tobe done such as repairingsegments of the Bond Brother’sHardwoods building, getting abig dent out of the top of thevillage water tower and repairing

small door damage on othervillage buildings, Mitchell said.

There has been other adversityto overcome since the tornado.An annual Popcorn Daycelebration in September washalted when another round ofintense inclement weatherarrived. Residents went withouttwo days of village water whennew lines were laid earlier thismonth.

“People of Ridgway arebecoming old pros at handlingbad situations,” Mitchell said.

Drone still voices amazementat the immediate relief effortand response in the immediatedays following the tornado.

“There was a lot ofcooperation and volunteer help.On this downtown block alone,about 80 people showed up.Farmers brought in their bigequipment to help out. Amerenrepair crews had power restoredwithin 48 hours,” Drone said.

And it makes him think and

respond about how that effortand work has transpired forRidgway today.

“It’s all worked out pretty

good so far,” Drone said.

[email protected]

Gallatin County village bouncing back best it can

AARON EISENHAUER / THE SOUTHERNA welcome sign and a sign of thanks sit at the edge of Ridgway.

DETAILSRidgway is hosting a Leap Day Tornado Tribute to celebrate recovery

from the Feb. 29, 2012, tornado. The celebration begins withregistration and food at 6 p.m. March 2 in the St. Joseph Gym atCombs & Edward Streets.

Recognition and appreciation will be at 7 p.m. with a slideshow oftornado damage to follow.

For more information, call 618-272-8751.

AARON EISENHAUER / THE SOUTHERNTraffic moves through the center of town Feb. 6 in Ridgway.


AARON EISENHAUER / THE SOUTHERNA few stacks of bricks and slate shingles are all that remains of St. Joseph Catholic Church inRidgway as of Feb. 6.

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTODamage is shown Feb. 29, 2012 at the St. Joseph’s CatholicChurch in Ridgway.

Page 11: Battered – Not Beaten


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THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOA path of damage created by the tornado is shown Feb. 29, 2012.

Page 12: Battered – Not Beaten

Bulldogs’ basketball acted as a distraction



HARRISBURG —Expectations were runninghigh for Harrisburg’s boysbasketball team lastseason.

The Bulldogs won theSIRR Ohio DivisionConference crown. Theyrolled through theregional. There was a realbuzz about town about apotential trip to the statetournament.

Harrisburg was poised totake the next step on thetrip to state Feb. 29, 2012.The Bulldogs werescheduled to play Bentonthat night at the Eldoradosectional.

However, Mother Natureintervened.

An EF4 tornado rippedthrough the south and eastpart of town at about 5p.m. Feb. 29, initiallykilling six people.

“We knew the storm wasthere with all the mediacoverage,” said Harrisburgbasketball coach RandySmithpeters. “The sirensgoing off is what woke usup. “Our house wasn’tdamaged. We were a blockand a half from the badarea. So much stuff washitting our windows I wasjust ready for a window tobreak any moment.

“Then it ended. Thething we noticed after thatwas all the emergencyvehicles going downGranger Street headedsouth. It was just startingto get light. We got in thecar and went one block tothe top of the hill. Whenyou got to the top of thehill you’re looking at trees,electric lines, houses andthe whole show was justscattered everywhere.That’s when we knew thiswas really bad.”

At that point, basketballtook a back seat.

Smithpeters had no wayof knowing the extent ofthe storm, or if any of hisplayers were injured.

“That was the scarypart,” he said. “I think thescariest part of the daywas communication was aproblem with phones andcellphones. Rumors were aproblem because you’dhear this many peoplewere dead, or this personwas dead or this person’schild was dead. Many ofthose proved not to betrue, but just trying to getcommunication …

“We couldn’t get hold ofBahari (Amaya) for awhile. It just scares you.We couldn’t get hold ofUppy (Dakota Upchurch).”

Amaya and Upchurchboth lived near the path ofthe tornado, but theyescaped unharmed.However, it was severalhours before Smithpeterswas able to reach Amaya.

“When I woke up and Ifound out about it, thefirst thing I worried aboutwas my teammatesbecause we have 2-3 guysthat lived in the area thatwas hit,” said senior guardCapel Henshaw. “I tried tocall 2-3 of my teammates

to see if they were all right,so I was glad about that.”

After confirming thateveryone on the team wassafe, Smithpeters’thoughts turned to thegame itself.

“That day, not knowinghow bad it was, I hadhoped the game would goon,” he said. “(AthleticDirector) Jay (Thompson)was out much more than Iwas. In fact, he was out inGaskins City, helping out.

“He said, ‘Hey, we needto postpone it.’ He madethe arrangements with theIHSA. It was postponed,which was the right thingto do.”

It was during thesehours that Smithpetersrealized the important rolehis team would play in therecovery.

“You really don’t realizehow important this was,you really don’t realizehow much people enjoygoing, look forward togoing and how muchsupport there is,” he said.“There were blockades,you couldn’t get in there(the damaged areas) unlessyou lived there. Therewere police at every street.I was going uptown. I wentto Main Street and turnedand there was a line of carswaiting to go into the areabecause they had to bechecked by police. Aboutthird or fourth in that lineswas a guy I didn’t knowpersonally, but I knew helived in that area. Istopped to roll my window

down and asked, ‘Are youguys OK?’ He rolled hiswindow down and said, ‘Isthe game on tonight?’

“It just kind of hit methen. I know your housecan’t be good because Iknow where you live, andyou ask me if the game ison tonight. The more I wasuptown, the more it wasjust kind of that way. Itwas just like when are yougoing to play. It just kindof struck me howimportant it is to people.”

In the few moments ittook for the tornado to ripthe town apart, the role ofthe basketball team waselevated. With the town inshambles, the Bulldogswere playing not only forthemselves and theirschool, but they carriedthe hopes of a shatteredcommunity.

“It was maybe a littlemore pressure, but we hadpressure on us anyway,”said senior guard TylerSmithpeters. “There was adifference. It madeeverybody not think about

it for a while, for about anhour and a half, that’sprobably all we needed.”

It was an emotionalnight when Harrisburgdefeated Benton in thesectional semifinal. Theemotion continued tobuild until Saturday whenthe Bulldogs facedPinckneyville in thesectional championshipgame.

By that time, the playerswere aware of their role inthis drama.

“I could see it in the factthey were very focused on

the games,” said RandySmithpeters. “You’d thinkwhat would be very hardto do. I think they saw theimportance of thesegames. I think they felt thesame way I did, you justreally wanted to win foreverybody.

“Usually you don’t goplay for the crowd. I thinkwe wanted to win foreverybody. We were reallyjust focused.”

“We were just trying tolift people’s spirits,”Henshaw said. “We knewif we could win, we couldhelp the community, andeven if we lost we knewthey were behind us 100percent. I felt like I hadmore energy to come out.I was really wanting to liftthe people’s spirits.”

It turns out it was atwo-way street.

The Bulldogs bolted outto a 19-1 lead and rolled toan easy win overPinckneyville in thesectional championship.

“There was no thinkingabout the tornado oncethe game started,”Upchurch said. “I wasfocused on the game only.”

That victory leftHarrisburg one gameaway from a berth in thestate championships atPeoria. However, thedream ended the nextTuesday at SIU Arenawhen the Bulldogs lost toeventual state championBreese Central.

[email protected]

A bit of normalcy


We Care About Your SuccessWe Care About Your Success

(800) 360-8044


‘You really don’t realize how important this was, you really don’t realize how much people enjoy going,look forward to going and how much support there is.’


THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOGov. Pat Quinn presents Harrisburg’s Ryne Roper with the sectional championship plaque after the Bulldogs defeated Pinckneyville in March.

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOHarrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters talks to his team after their win over Benton at the Eldorado Class 2A sectional in March.

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOA gentleman wears a purple ribbon at the Class 2A Eldoradosectional game between Benton and Harrisburg in March.

Page 13: Battered – Not Beaten


In the days and weeksafter the Leap DayTornado, a number ofchurches andorganizations stepped upto help out thecommunity.

But in Dorrisville, one of the city’s oldestneighborhoods, the localchurch focused its effortson having a positiveimpact on the immediateneighborhood.

Dewayne Taylor, seniorpastor at DorrisvilleBaptist Church, said thechurch’s neighborhoodwas hit hard. The churchitself was spared fromdamage, but was withoutpower. The neighborhoodblocks to the immediatesouth were not asfortunate.

Taylor said the LargentStreet area had the largestconcentration ofuninsured andunderinsured people.

“We felt an obligation

and desire to help the folksout there,” said Taylor.

Rod Wallace, DorrisvilleBaptist Church member,along with Taylor helpedorganize the church’sresponse.

Wallace downplayed hisrole in organizing churchefforts to rebuild theneighborhood.

“It’s something I wouldexpect anyone else to do,”he said.

The church leadersspent several days walkingthe neighborhood, findingout what that need was,and working to addressthose needs.

During their assessmentof the neighborhood, theteam found there wereareas that needed minorrepair, while others neededmajor renovation orcomplete rebuilding.

Wallace said although

the tornado wasdevastating, the responseafter the storm was “achance for Christ to beuplifted by getting out and being the hands andfeet that get the job done.”

It was an opportunityfor the church at large andthe community to bedrawn together to help oneanother, said Wallace.

The church team camein to rebuild houses,trailers and providedfinancial assistance forhome rebuilding androofing repairs. Thechurch itself also becamethe site to house the influxof volunteers toHarrisburg.

But the work performedby Dorrisville BaptistChurch reaches beyondhelping the homeownershit in their immediate

neighborhood. Throughtheir work with SouthernIllinois legislators, Taylorand his team were able toget a bill passed throughthe General Assembly thatexempts victims of naturaldisasters from propertytax increases.

Taylor said the church’sresponse to the disasterwas “the Christian thingto do.”

“I promise you if JesusChrist had been alive onFeb. 29, he would havebeen right there in themiddle of the tornado

helping people. And that’sjust the bottom line,”Taylor said. “It’s neighborshelping neighbors. Theseare our neighbors, and wewant to help our friends.”

[email protected]

‘It’s neighbors helping neighbors. These are ourneighbors, and we want to help our friends.’


Church reaches out to community

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERNThe Dorrisville Baptist Church is shown Feb. 14 in Harrisburg. The church helped those affectedby the storm through helping to rebuild and provided financial assistance when needed.

Meeting the people’s needsBY STEPHEN RICKERLTHE SOUTHERN

In the days after the Leap DayTornado, a pastor and hiscongregation spearheaded theeffort to turn a vacant grocerystore into Harrisburg’s majorlifeline to food and supplies.

First Baptist Church PastorChris Winkleman said themorning the storm hit he triedto get into the church becausethe other Harrisburg churchesthat normally serve as Red Crossshelters were without power.When he arrived at First Baptist,the Red Cross was already therewanting to set up.

Winkleman said as wordspread that the Red CrossShelter was at First Baptist,people immediately begansending supplies to the church.

“That quickly gotoverwhelming for our facility,”he said. “So we started lookingaround brainstorming to seewhere else we could go.”

Winkleman said officials knewthe former Mad Pricer buildingwas vacant. Within hours reliefworkers had the keys to thebuilding and were movinginventory and stockpilingsupplies.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Greggsaid he had the keys to the MadPricer building before the stormbecause it was slated to beconverted to a movie theater.The keys had been turned overto local realtor Peg Osman.

Gregg said after the tornado,he requested someone contactOsman to open the building forthe relief effort. It wasn’t untilseveral days later Gregg realizedOsman’s home had beendestroyed and she was left blackand blue from the storm, but shestill managed to contact theowner and get permission to usethe vacant building for a supplycenter.

“That building was an

absolute godsend for us,” Greggsaid.

“I don’t know what we wouldhave done without it. It wasnothing short of a miracle whatwas pulled off.”

Winkleman and Gregg said theoutpouring of support wasincredible. Large shipments ofdetergent, paper towels,cleaning supplies arrived by thesemitrailer from companies suchas Proctor and Gamble,municipal governments andregional universities. Regionalresidents would drop off a carfull of any supplies they couldgather.

“It was great because MadPricer was able to kind ofbecome the central place whereeverything was going into andout of,” Winkleman said.

Donations filled a store frontwere those hit by the stormcould come pick up what theyneeded.

Behind the storefront,Winkleman said was a

warehouse full of donatedgoods.

The outpouring of supportwas encouraging.

“I think one of the things Itook away is that people aremore generous than oftenthey’re given credit for,”Winkleman said. “There was aneed in Harrisburg, and thatneed was more than met by the

people outside of Harrisburg.That was really encouraging.”

Winkleman said thecommunity will come togetherat 6 p.m. March 3 at theDavenport Gym at the highschool for a community worshipservice. Everyone is invited toattend.

“Out of this horriblenightmarish tragedy there arethings that have made us betterpeople,” Gregg said of thecommunity’s response to thetornado.

[email protected]

‘That building was an absolute godsend for us. I don’t knowwhat we would have done without it. It was nothing short of

a miracle what was pulled off.’HARRISBURG MAYOR ERIC GREGG

Distribution center key to successful response

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERNThe vacant building that used to house Tom’s Mad Pricer served as an emergency distribution hub after the tornado.


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Page 14: Battered – Not Beaten



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THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOInsurance agent Jim Williams looks over the church bells that had fallen to the ground at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Ridgway after the tornado.

Those who fell.

Those who volunteered. Those who repaired.

Those who cleared. Those who re-planted.


THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOCommunity members and hospital staff observe a moment of silence during a dedicationceremony for a memorial garden at Harrisburg Medical Center in November.

Page 15: Battered – Not Beaten


THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOA path of damage created by the tornado stretches west from the backside of Walmart to the east in Harrisburg.


About 80 percent ofhomes and other propertydestroyed or damaged inlast year’s tornado havebeen rebuilt in Harrisburg,city and volunteer leaderssay.

Private insurance and $3million in state disasterrelief funds have carried alarge portion of thatrebuilding.

However, several otherswho were uninsured orunderinsured, or who didnot qualify for state funds,are getting help throughabout $650,000 in privatedonations, said Jerry King,a lead member of theHarrisburg MinisterialAlliance’s STORM.

King said STORM hashelped about 300 familiesto date with the possibilityothers will be lateridentified. One challengethe group has had isfinding families that leftthe area.

Still others are alsocoming forward as theydiscover damage that wasnot immediately detected,he said. And some insuredproperty owners arefinding their coverage willnot pay for all repairs.

Joe Jackson, of STORM’srehab committee, helpedcoordinate nearly half ofthe 6,000 volunteers thatwork under the group.Jackson is also a SalineCounty Board member.

“The last three months,work has really sped up,”Jackson said, pointing tothe release of the statefunds. “Even today peopleare so thankful thatSTORM is doing what it isdoing and help them finishup work their insurancewouldn’t pay for.”

Jackson acknowledgescontroversy over therelease of state funds andhow homes were beingselected for projects ashaving been an issue.

But as rebuilding began,much of those concernshave dissipated.

Several businesses havealso rebuilt all or a portionof their buildings affectedby the storm, includingthe Harrisburg MedicalCenter, Old National Bankand Southern FS.

Meanwhile, negotiationsand plans for rebuildingthe Golden Circle SeniorCenter and a strip mall,both of which weredestroyed, are ongoing,Mayor Eric Gregg said.

He also said some clean-up work remains inDorrisville, a section of thecity where many

homeowners or rentershad no insurance or notenough.

Gregg said he plans to

propose the area be zonedas a tax incrementfinancing district to helppay for infrastructure

improvements neededregardless of the tornado.

“It’s pretty incrediblehow we have come back a

year later. A year from nowI don’t know if you willeven be able to tell thetornado went through

here,” Gregg said.

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Still recoveringCity has come a long way, but work not done

AARON EISENHAUER / THE SOUTHERNA few stripped foundations remain among repaired homes and new construction Feb. 6 in Harrisburg, nearly a year after a devastating tornado.

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERNThe area where a strip mall was destroyed by the Leap Day Tornado is shown vacated Feb. 14 in Harrisburg.

Page 16: Battered – Not Beaten

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTOResidents take in some of the damage after the tornado.

'It's pretty incredible how we have come back a year later. A year from now Idon't know if you will even be able to tell the tornado went through here.'