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May 6, 2012

Lost and found in the rubble: Gilles family continue to put the pieces back together

HENRYVILLE —   Ironically, Darrell Gilles is once again praying for good weather; however, this time it is to enable the construction crew to continue building a new home for his family.

The home will have a sturdy basement to ensure his wife and three children always have a safe place to escape future storms. As the construction work begins, the family reflects upon their first home that was demolished by the tornado.

Although it is amazing that anything or anyone survived the destruction of the Gilles home, there have been a few items salvaged … Trish’s wedding dress, one of their two baby turtles and a few clothing items — including a treasured robe belonging to Trish’s deceased grandmother. The family’s computer hard drive was also located and it was determined that Trish’s downloaded documents and photographs were saved.

As luck would have it, just a few months earlier, Trish had downloaded all of her photographs from various flash drives into the computer.

“In some ways, it seems we had unknowingly prepared for this disaster.” Trish said, “because I took the time to download the data, we have nearly all of our treasured family photos.”

While the photos were recovered, other important items were not.

Like many women, Trish was cautious with her wedding/anniversary ring. Darrell had upgraded Trish’s ring on their 10th wedding anniversary and she had been elated with his gift. She made it a habit to always take her ring off when she arrived home from work and place it on a dresser in her closet.

Trish, Darrell and their three children were hunkered down in that closet when the tornado brutally swept them and their home into whirling debris.

The wedding/anniversary ring was lost. Darrell knew what the ring meant to Trish and soon after he was out of the hospital, he began working on replacing it on her finger. When Genesis Diamonds in Louisville heard about Trish’s loss, they wanted to help. Genesis offered a generous voucher for Trish and Darrell to come in to their showroom and pick out a replacement wedding ring and anniversary band. Trish got that new ring Friday.

The entire family marvels at the generosity of our community and beyond.

Eight-year-old Mia knew exactly what she missed the most from her home. Mia smiled and laughed as she remembered her Christmas present of a remodeled Justin Bieber bedroom. Her entire room had been made over in her singing idol’s image, including a life-like cutout of Bieber, along with a microphone for singing along to his music. Mia said she would sure like to have her room back as it was before the tornado, but doubts it can be done.

Someone found Caleb’s cell phone in the rubble and because of the protective case, it didn’t have a scratch on it. He happily showed it off; then went back to playing games on it. The children enjoy computer games and were sad to lose their Xbox game system they received for Christmas.

When the Microsoft Regional Offices in Oak Brook, Ill., found out about their loss, they quickly sent a new gaming system for the children, along with several games and other related items. When the package came in the mail, Trish said it was like Christmas morning as the boys tore open the boxes. Mia nearly cried when she realized Microsoft specifically included games she would enjoy playing.

Trish took a moment to reflect on what she continues to miss the most about her home. Her smile faded and head dropped as she softly said, “I miss my own bed.” The typically confident woman seemed to falter as she explained, “My bedroom was my quiet place; it was where I went when having a bad day … it gave me comfort; it gave us all comfort.”

Trish recalled a quiet, nearly hypnotic moment in the hospital when she was alone for a few minutes. She explained that her mind seemed to simply shut down. Tears filled Trish’s eyes as she clarified, “I mentally walked down the hall and into my bedroom; it seemed real as I saw the paint on the walls, photos, my bed, and for a moment I felt completely at peace.” She then quickly wiped the tears from her eyes and resumed her resilient composure.

Trish knows another bedroom will be built and it may have similar paint on the walls, similar decorations and even a comparable bed; however, it will never be the same room.

SERIES DETAILS

• The News and Tribune is following the Gilles Family for several months as they mend and rebuild. The articles will depict the continuing need for community support during the restoration of Southern Indiana areas damaged and destroyed by the March 2012 tornadoes. Updates will be titled, “We Survived: A Hopeful Spirit After The Storm.” Earlier versions can be found at newsandtribune.com

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5-year-old Nicholas Garrison is handed a lemon drop, while 6-year-old Thomas and 4-year-old Walker Sturgeon, try theirs at Schimpff's Confectionery Friday afternoon in Jeffersonville.

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