“When you know you have to do something, you do it. It all came together and just fell in place,” she said.
Speeches delivered on the weathered stage in Pekin Park echoed McCarty’s sentiment. Cold weather postponed the tree-planting ceremony originally planned, but a poem was read in its place. Titled “The Mighty Oak”, the words mimicked the town’s own plight this past year: “When the winds are high and restless and you lose a limb or two, it only makes you stronger, we could learn so much from you.”
Pekin resident David Sowder also spoke about how the “small town with a big heart” came together after the brutal storms. He remembered Joe Babcock, Moriah Brough and their three young children who perished as a result of the tornado. But he also acknowledged how much the town had helped the struggling family even before the world knew of their names.
“This young family was fortunate enough to have neighbors, friends and a church that were able to keep them up off the ground. A community that was unwilling to let a young family slip through the cracks. But sadly, the only reason we know this story is because this young family was lost on March 2,” Sowder said. “The loss of this young family adds to the magnitude of the tragedy, but their story is a prime example of a community that cares for one another. “
Standing toward the back of the seated crowd, local fire department volunteer David Campbell understood the pain of losing the family all too well. He found the bodies of the mother and her two children in a field near their destroyed home, the youngest baby still secured in a car seat meant for protection.
The discovery has weighed heavily on Campbell. A church offered counseling to the first responders to aid in the process of emotional healing, but the men and women still vividly remember.