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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently write a column every other Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Continuing saga of tornado aftermath

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................May 19, 2015

Note to readers: Barry Schrader’s “DeKalb County Life” column will appear every other Tuesday.

After my May 5 column concerning the victims of the April 9 tornado in and around Fairdale I was surprised by the volume of responses—15 emails plus comments from many I met during the following week.

An early email from Danielle Varallo of Sen. Mark Kirk’s office explained how he and Sen. Dick Durbin have introduced legislation to change the FEMA formula for assisting smaller communities. I had criticized our state’s senators for doing too little. But then I saw the press release from Sen. Kirk stating “Communities like Washington (scene of the deadly 2013 tornadoes), Fairdale and Rochelle should never be denied public assistance aid following a natural disaster again.” He went on to explain details of his bill called Fairness in Federal Declarations Act. This is commendable, but an earlier version had bee introduced in Congress two years ago, and apparently has gotten nowhere. One state’s senators can only do so much. The people need to reinforce the fact FEMA treats smaller communities unfairly, so send letters, emails and make calls. Just ask his office, Congressmen from our area and our state representatives how we can make our voices heard more effectively.

Meanwhile, back in Fairdale the trauma of recovery continues. There are 150 residents of that community uprooted and still suffering, 92 families,

The Martinez’s large garage with an apartment built above it (shown just after the tornado), had to be demolished due to structural damage when it was blown off its foundation. (Provided photo)

Monica Martinez and her son Luis talk about the tornado in Fairdale and its aftermath. They plan to return and rebuild. (Barry Schrader for ShawMedia photo)
69 structures (not counting outbuildings and garages) plus numerous others in the rural area and over in Ogle County. Fairdale alone has nearly $8 million in losses, according to Bill Nicklas who is heading up the DeKalb County Longterm Recovery Committee. Of the 50 home owners currently committed to returning to rebuild, there are 21 of those houses totally destroyed, 15 more with major damage and uninhabitable, and 14 more with less serious damage.

I spent part of the day last Thursday talking with more survivors of the twister, similar stories to those I had heard from Deena Schell and her family. Talking with Monica Martinez and her son Luis, who is a Certified Nursing Assistant at Oak Crest Retirement Center in DeKalb, I learned even more about the disaster around Fairdale. Monica emotionally told how they stayed in their basement for nearly an hour waiting for a signal it was safe to come out. The smell of gas from damaged propane tanks was overwhelming and created the added fear of gas explosions, since some were using lighted candles in the darkness that followed the storm.

But the Martinez family wants to fix up their home and return. “We have been there for 15 years. That is the only home our kids have known. It is a small but caring community. Everybody knows everybody and that makes it a nice place to live,” she said. (As you may have read in Saturday’s Daily Chronicle, her daughter Casey was named prom queen at Hiawatha High School just this month.)

Luis mentioned the solitary park in the town, how the playground equipment is damaged and probably unsafe. I wondered out loud if service clubs like Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary from around the county could pool their resources and rebuild that park, replace the destroyed shelter house, maybe even add a baseball or soccer field, where kids can enjoy the outdoors once again. To paraphrase what someone has said before: “Build it and they will come back.” The clubs could even ask the Forest Preserve District to maintain the “open space” once it has been restored.

Give them something to be happy about, a place to forget their troubles for awhile and be carefree. Kids need that nowadays, more than ever.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115