“I got comfort in, since it had to be [that] they all passed ... they stayed together and we got to bury them all together. They don’t have to worry anymore,” he said.
The injury toll to the workers at his business could have been much higher, but the employees chose to take some of their overtime hours and leave an hour earlier than normal.
“Normally we work until 3 on Fridays,” Lanham said. “But earlier in the week, we had worked about a half-hour late. The guys decided instead of overtime, they’d leave an hour early. So everyone left at 2. Even if we would have left a few minutes early, somebody would have driven into it,” he said of the tornado that struck after 3 p.m.
Within walking distance from Worley Lumber, little remains where Saroyan Hardwoods Inc. once stood. Longtime Pekin residents Sammy Anderson and Sterling McCarty said they had heard the small business would be rebuilding elsewhere, but nothing has been set in stone.
Residents still gather at the Original Pop-a-Top, a tavern in town, and discuss those March events of a year ago. McCarty and his mother own the bar and helped distribute meals and other essentials to those in need after the storms hit. He said that although much has been done, there are still areas affected.
“Most of the residents on [Jordan] Lake, they’ve pretty much kicked back and come back,” he said. “If you drive by there, there’s still a bunch of debris lying around. There’re still trees across everybody’s yards.”
He and Anderson both expressed annoyance at the government. It’s common to hear stories about victims with already little resources having to replace septic systems because their old ones weren’t up to code. This addition could add more than $3,000 to an already cash-strapped survivor’s expense.