‘This Is Home, and We'll Never Leave It’
By Susan Kim*
March 14, 2012 — The day a tornado ripped through Henryville, IN, Peggy Ward rode out the storm in the basement of her daughter's house, next door to the Henryville Elementary – Junior/Senior High School.
The school was destroyed. So was Ward's home, along with dozens of others in this town of a few thousand people.
Five days after the storm, Ward sat at a picnic table in front of what was left of her home, resting in between digging through the rubble for her belongings. She was especially searching for photos and other mementoes of her young granddaughter who died from surgical complications last year.
Even though she has no insurance, Ward believes she'll eventually rebuild. “This is home, and we'll never leave it,” she said. “Henryville is not just a town that got hit by a tornado. We're a family.”
Ward, who cleans homes for a living, said she is grateful for the support of local pastors and response groups. “The [United] Methodist pastor [Rev. Wilma Bone] stopped by to check on me, and I'm not even Methodist,” she said.
Ward, who attends a non-denominational church in another town, clutched a Bible given to her by The Salvation Army, which was working with local churches to provide food and personal items to hundreds of people.
For three days after the storm, Ward kept telling responders to go help somebody else. “I kept saying, ‘I'm okay, I'm okay,’ ” she said. Then a volunteer told her it was her time to receive help.
“I have always been a giver,” she said. “But right now, God says it's time to receive.”
“This will definitely pay forward,” she added, “because as soon as I can, I'm going to turn around and help someone else.”
For now, people like Don Partlow – a member of the Henryville United Methodist Church – are the ones on the giving end. Partlow said he has been responding since the storm struck, and reflected that the town was, in its own way, prepared for disaster because of close-knit neighbors who communicated the best they could after the storm.
“Nobody ever thinks a tornado is going to go over top of them,” he said.
UMCOR is supporting local churches in towns like Henryville that were devastated by tornadoes that tore through southern and Midwestern states.
UMCOR has provided a $10,000 emergency grant to the Indiana Annual Conference for tornado response. Grants also have been made to the Holston, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Ohio annual conferences.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to UMCOR.org.