One Month Later, Tornado Victims Rebuild

By Adam Reilly

Jul. 5, 2011

Watch: Greater Boston visits Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The city of Springfield looks a little like a war zone. In the Six Corners neighborhood, uprooted trees sprawl across the ground, trash covers empty lots and and spray-painted X’s mark the doors of condemned houses. But just over a month after tornadoes ravaged Springfield, Monson and other nearby communitites in Western Massachusetts, the story here isn’t ruin. It's recovery.

Exactly one month after the tornado hit, Jacqueline Miller was talking about her home of 24 years with a contractor.

"We’ll frame it, we’ll insulate it, we’ll drywall it," the contractor said.

"Okay, cool," Jaqueline answers.

It wasn't always easy for her to have matter-of-fact conversations about the rebuilding of her home: At first, she says, the trauma was devastating. 

"It was one of the worst things that I have been through," Miller said. "To just have the clothes on back, and don’t where we were going to stay that night for a while, it was just such an empty and hollow feeling. Like whatw am I going to do? I was heartbroken."
In mid-July Miller’s home is slated to be demolished and rebuilt. And Miller says all of her neighbors have decided to come back home.
"We all talked about it. No one said they’re moving away. They’ve been there thirty-something years, they’ve been there forty-something. So they want to come back. 'We’ll see you in a little while,' that’s what we’re always telling each other," Miller said.
Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno strikes a similarly optimistic note, saying that the tornadoes gave Springfield a chance to showcase its character.
"What’s keeping us going 24/7 has been the resiliency of the people. They’re anxious to rebuild," Sarno said. "We’re not only rebuilding structures and infrastructure, we’re also rebuilding human lives."

As horrible as the damage was, Sarno adds, it’s given Springfield a chance to redefine itself.
"Nobody wants a tornado any time of devastation, national devastation. But this almost gives you an opportunity to reinvigorate an area and come back bigger better and stronger," Sarno said.

Jacqueline Miller isn’t worried about her neighborhood improving. She just wants it to be the way it was before, with the same sense of community that always knitted it together
"I think we’ll be happy, I think we’ll be content. Because like if I cook out on the grill I call, “I got the grill hot, come put some food on.” It was a nice neighborhood," Miller said.

And if Miller has anything to say about it, it will be again.

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