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March 2, 2013

365 days later: Henryville residents celebrate recovery, community

HENRYVILLE — Flashing red and blue lights accompanied wailing sirens down U.S. 31 on Saturday. 

But unlike a year ago when hundreds were scrambling for any help they could get, Henryville residents were celebrating a year of recovery with a parade after the tornado that ravaged their hometown March 2, 2012.

Rachel Peacock and her family were bundled up in coats and blankets along the parade route. While waving to first responders who helped the community and catching candy, she said her family has already experienced healing from the destruction.

“We’ve been able to get everybody together and move forward,” Peacock said. “It just takes one day at a time. We’ve lost some memories, pictures and stuff, but everybody is still here.”

She said some of her family members lost their homes in the path of the EF-4 tornado — which was estimated to run 13 miles long and a half-mile wide. 

Lindsey Nierman also was keeping her family warm during the snowy celebration. She said though rebuilding efforts are bringing the town back to normal, there are still obvious reminders of last year’s disaster.

“It’s still sad,” Nierman said. “You still look at the hillside and the treetops, and it still makes you want to tear up with what happened. You see slowly the rebuilding of the community. You see a little progress each day as you drive through town, but there’s still a ways to go.”

Once the parade ended, residents crowded into the gymnasium of Henryville High School, which was almost completely decimated by the tornado. Five months after much of Henryville Elementary and Junior/Senior High School were destroyed, students returned to their newly rebuilt school.

As the tornado tore through the school, students piled into classrooms with teachers and the office of the elementary Principal Glenn Riggs.

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Judy Lunsford works on a lesson plan for her students with fellow teachers, Ellen Rothstein and Adam Stephens, in her classroom at Northaven Elementary in Jeffersonville Wednesday afternoon. Lunsford, a new addition to Northaven, will be teaching second grade.

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