News and Tribune

June 13, 2012

A snapshot of perseverance: Clapp family sorting through their lives post-tornado

BY AMANDA BEAM
newsroom@newsandtribune.com

MARYSVILLE — In the March 19 issue of Time Magazine, a photo was published showing the devastating aftermath of the tornadoes that had ripped apart the small town of Marysville earlier that month.

The photographer captured an image of indiscernible shredded metal wrapped around a broken old tree, an American flag haphazardly hung to the side. Newly fallen snow shrouded the objects in a light white blanket.

For Marysville residents Lisa and Michael Clapp, the photograph that astounded the world depicted only a small part of their new reality. The twisted heap shown was the trailer to the semi Michael drove as an independent truck driver. It had been parked on property they own in town, an area that sustained a direct hit. The door of the trailer now stands as a makeshift memorial, the words “Lord through these bad times and the good, I should praise you like I should” emblazoned on the steel even before the tornadoes struck.

But the destruction of Michael’s livelihood is only a small part of the couple’s story. Three months after the storms, the Clapp family lives in a mobile home provided by their insurance company. Just outside its doors used to lie the shell of their house that was shaken beyond repair by the tornadoes. A barn was also lost along with several rabbits.

“This tornado was at least a mile high and a half-mile wide on the bottom,” Michael said. “There were people who were seeing tails shooting out like lightning strikes. By the time it got to Marysville, it was just a big black swirl on the ground. When it got closer, that’s when I got in.”



‘IT LASTED FOREVER’

Somehow, Lisa, Michael and their 5-year-old granddaughter, Aiden Stewart, survived the passing twisters by seeking shelter in their metal work building’s small wooden tool room just outside their house. The huge doors rose up off the structure, but the room held together, keeping all inside safe.

“Aiden, she describes the noise as her brother’s Little League baseball team taking metal bats and hitting the building just as hard and as fast as they can,” Lisa said.

The duration of the storm surprised both Lisa and Michael. At 3:23 p.m., the first of several tornadoes struck their house, knocking the batteries out of a clock that gave testament to the timeline of events.

“I’ve been led to believe that there was the big one, and then two more that followed at two-minute intervals. The winds never let up. This was at least a five-minute thing,” Michael said.

“It lasted forever,” Lisa added.

Immediately following the tornadoes, help began to arrive, for which the family is still thankful. Volunteers built them a storage shed. Lisa said at least 1,000 hands petted her dogs as they traveled from afar to assist those in need.



HELPING OUT OTHERS

Once the disaster relief teams packed up their emergency relief supplies three weeks after the initial hit, the Clapps themselves began to collect and store supplies from local charities and distribute them to the community.

A Girl Scout troop in Tallahassee, Fla., sent Build a Bears for local children affected by the tragedy. Water, toiletries, snacks and other sought after materials are still readily available for those in need.

Several weeks ago, Michael purchased a new semi-trailer and began to go on runs again. The house has been removed with hopes that a new one will soon take its place. Although insured, depreciation of their assets means additional money will be necessary to replace their home and all they lost. Insurance just doesn’t cover it all.

Paperwork for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other grants have been filled out. Several have already been denied, and they are appealing. The family hopes they may still receive some additional funds to help them recover.

“It’s like if you have insurance, you have the plague. When you tell them you have insurance, one guy just stood up and walked away from me,” Michael said.



‘WE WILL BE OK’

Emotional hardships still weigh heavily on survivors. Their granddaughter has begun counseling to deal with anxiety after she experienced the wrath of the tornadoes. When the wind would blow or rain would fall, she would begin to scream and cry. Talking with someone has helped relieve some of this stress.

Other things have started returning to a new kind of normal. Lisa’s cat, Hancy Fancy, that went missing during the tornadoes returned home unscathed several weeks ago. Where he has spent these last several months is anyone’s guess.

Above all, the Clapps know that the worst is over and they are thankful for their lives, health and all the help they’ve received from volunteers.

“I speak for everybody in the Marysville community when I say we cannot give enough gratitude to all those people who came out and helped. It was above and beyond anything and everything you would ever think that you would see,” Michael said.

“We will get by. We will make it. No ifs, ands or buts,” he said. “We will make it. We will be OK.”