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October 31, 2012

Restoration in humanity: Sen. Coats visits Henryville schools for first time since March

HENRYVILLE — Things had changed since his last visit.

U.S. Senator Dan Coats, R - Ind., had a chance to get a look at the Henryville schools for the first time since the tornadoes tore them apart in March. Instead of rubble, he saw how the schools came out even better than before.

“It’s night and day,” Coats said. “I saw nothing but a pit of twisted destruction and scenes that I never thought were possible, like a school bus being thrown through a building across the street.”

Coats also made a stop at the Mid-America Science Park — the facility in Scottsburg where the high school ran during restoration — and Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg.

Students at Henryville, though, were presented with a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol. He said he requested the flag fly in Washington, D.C. so the school could have something to commemorate how they pushed through the challenges they faced.

Glenn Riggs, principal of Henryville Elementary, said he was glad to have a legislator drop by, especially since they weren’t blazing a campaign trail.

“It’s pleasantly surprising,” Riggs said. “I think a lot of people want to get in on the front end of an event, but to have someone see something all the way through and celebrate with you is really nice.”

The facility was all but completely destroyed in the tornadoes March 2. The school was rebuilt in five months with the help of Belfor, a restoration company.

Troy Albert, principal of Henryville Jr.-Sr. High School, said though there are still minor hiccups in day-to-day operations of the schools, everyone’s happy to be back home.

“As far as usability and access, we can’t complain,” Albert said. “You can’t rush everything, you’ve got to be patient. We’re just glad to have all of our little ones back in school.”

Coats talked to students a little about his job as a senator and how he thought the reaction of Henryville’s citizens exemplified what he loves about the country.

“For all the tragedy and destruction that comes from the storm was a lesson and an example of what happens in times of trouble,” Coats said, “the story of America is people pulling together.”

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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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