Reflecting on the Easter Tornado, A Year Later

By Briana Brady, Opinion Editor–

One year ago yesterday, my family, my neighborhood, and surrounding community were subjected to an unforgettable event: we experienced an EF-3 tornado barreling down our streets late into the night on Easter Sunday, 2020. Almost a year ago, I wrote about my harrowing experience, which included being led by flashlight out of our home to the front of our neighborhood on foot, at which point we were transported to the command center in a SWAT van.

Riding down Shallowford Road in the SWAT van

To this day, I can still see in my mind’s eye the unbelievable destruction, the innumerable siren lights flashing, and the green sky that lingered that night above us after the tornado swept through. A year ago, it was hard to imagine that the neighborhood would ever recover from the incalculable damage, but most prominent in my memory are the words of a first responder, one of many who so bravely accounted for each individual at all residences, who said to my family: “You’re lucky to be alive.”

House in the back of Drake Forest, April 2020

The process of rebuilding has been deeply educational and variant, too. While some residents left the neighborhood entirely, most chose to rebuild. In the meantime, most families, including my own, lived in another home for a few months or more until our original homes became habitable again. A year later, though, too many folks are still living in other homes, as many houses remain in the beginning stages of structural work due to insurance battles and issues of demand resulting in long-lasting delays.

My street, April 2020
My street, April 2021

For some homes, like mine, the bones were salvaged and the structure underwent a significant restoration and remodel. Other homes, though, were unsalvageable and thus were leveled, the property then either sold as a lot or rebuilt upon by the original owners. The variety of approaches to rebuilding has resulted in a once cohesive neighborhood transforming into a somewhat disjointed one full of some very modern, craftsman-style homes as well as some traditional homes–and every style in between.

Contrast in homes: One untouched, one rebuilt

Not so visible, though, are the lasting effects of surviving the tornado, which for me, are very palpable. More, they are something I imagine I will deal with for a long time. Amidst the couple weeks of very intense storms with threats of tornadoes that we had in March of this year alone, my anxiety was incredibly high and I really leaned on my circle of people for support. Intense sounds of wind make me nervous now, and thunder that shakes a building’s structure puts me on edge, too. Nevertheless, I feel very grateful; my home is one of the furthest along in the rebuilding process and throughout the entirety of the aftermath–back to within hours of the tornado striking, I think all my family would agree that we have had the most generous and nurturing support system. Ultimately, though, the biggest blessing was assuredly that we survived.

Just as the sun set the night after the tornado, it rose again the next morning, marking a new day. That sun shone down upon a community that came together, committed to cleaning up and starting anew. And that we did, and that we continue to do. It will take many more years before the affected communities will return to their post-storm normal, but one step at a time, we’re well on our way.

April 2020
April 2021

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