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
Note to readers: Barry Schraders 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 responses15 emails plus comments from many I met during
the following week.
An early email from Danielle Varallo of Sen. Mark Kirks
office explained how he and Sen. Dick Durbin have introduced
legislation to change the FEMA formula for assisting smaller
communities. I had criticized our states 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 states 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 Martinezs 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.
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)
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
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 Saturdays 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.