People in Washington, Ill., say two things when they talk about the tornado that stunned this city of 15,000 on Sunday: Pictures don’t accurately capture the destruction. And, this is the kind of thing that happens to other people. But on November 17, it happened here.
“You see it, and you think, ‘I’ve seen this on TV before.’ It’s always on TV. But this is real. This is us,” says Susan Schildt as she sat with a bowl of soup in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church in Washington. She and others working to salvage what they can came by today for lunch, prepared by church members and served buffet style. Pastor Joshua Monda publicized the free meal on Facebook.
The Schildts’ home is no longer liveable. Susan was at church Sunday morning, talking to her husband, Donald, on the phone, when the line suddenly went dead. He hunkered under an overturned couch while their son, Daniel, took cover in a walk-in closet. The family reunited soon after the storm.
“We’re alive; that’s all that matters,” she told a friend at lunch today. “It’s all stuff. I keep telling myself it’s just stuff.”
Phil Jones is another member of FBC that lost his home. He stands outside the, talking on his cell phone. He breaks away from his conversation long enough to say he’s doing OK, that he’s living on adrenaline right now. But as soon as that ends, he plans to crash, he says it with a smile.
Roland Manor Baptist Church across town is serving as an incident command center for Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief. Eight volunteers from Sullivan Southern Baptist Church and Westfield Association worked in Washington today, clearing debris and putting tarps on roofs. They’re working against the clock – rain is in the forecast for the next few days. Six more volunteers from Capital City and Sandy Creek Associations are at work in Pekin, 20 miles to the southwest, and another crew in Peoria is cooking meals for these volunteers and for other storm responders and victims.
Recovery work here in Washington is slow, as crews work to remove downed power lines and police keep the most damaged neighborhoods blocked off to everyone except residents. At the incident command center, Harold Booze and Bob Elmore are working to coordinate individual jobs for the volunteers that are here now, and another crew from Salem South Association arriving tonight.
At the other end of the state, Disaster Relief volunteers are working in and around Brookport, where a tornado Sunday killed three people and destroyed dozens of homes. First Baptist Church, Metropolis, is preparing 300 meals a day to be delivered by the Red Cross.
Volunteers from Kaskaskia Association also assisted homeowners in New Minden, Ill., seven miles north of Nashville.
To donate to Illinois Disaster Relief, go to www.IBSA.org.