On this date one year ago, a mile-wide tornado dropped from the sky in northeastern Iowa and carved a long path through several communities, killing eight people, injuring dozens and leaving a wide trail of destruction.
Parkersburg Police Chief Chris Luhring says this Memorial Day holiday is particularly poignant for his recovering community, which lost six of its residents and about one-third of its homes and businesses to the violent storm.
"We have special services every year on Memorial Day that are done by our American Legion and this year, Governor Culver will be the keynote speaker," Chief Luhring says. "This is all staged in the same area where our Veterans Memorial building became a very, very important asset that we kept after the tornado. It wasn’t completely leveled."
Today’s service caps a weekend full of events in Parkersburg which aim to express gratitude to those who have helped — and are still helping — residents to rebuild their homes, businesses and lives. Luhring says he’s hoping some of those vital first-responders will respond — again — today in Parkersburg.
"We’re hoping the medics, the firemen, the police officers, National Guardsmen and women will show up and just allow people to tell them thank you face-to-face," Luhring says.
"Maybe some of those volunteers will meet up with people that they helped in the immediate aftermath, too." He says the community will never be the same as it was before the monster storm, but in many ways, it’s being rebuilt better and stronger.
Organizers of today’s events believe the one-year mark will help residents to recognize how far they’ve come in the rebuilding process. Luhring says the final ceremony is this afternoon.
"At about 4:30, there’ll be a community service, a remembrance service for those who lost their lives," Luhring says. "It’ll probably be a solemn time as far as the remembrance is concerned but at 4:59, we’re going to be ringing the church bells of Parkersburg and just remember the exact time that the tornado struck." For more details, visit the Parkersburg website .