Almost three months after tornadoes ripped through Borden’s Daisy Hill, evidence of their destructive path still exists along the windy country road. Homes that were once two stories stand in half, their upper floors exposed to the elements. At one residence, the cold cement foundation where a house once stood is now covered in retrieved furniture that survived a twister’s wrath. Children no longer play in the yards. An eerie quiet prevails on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Hidden up the hill from Ind. 60, people around these parts feel forgotten. The media never really gave as much coverage to the area, even though the utter destruction, albeit a smaller stretch, was on par with the larger population centers affected. But residents still have stories of survival and heroism to share to those who will listen, alongside tales of devastation and despair. Mostly, they want the world to know they still need help.
Several people have begun to repair and rebuild, others wait for insurance checks to be issued. For homeowners without insurance, the future is uncertain. FEMA offers low interest loans, but those on government assistance and older victims of the disaster who count on Social Security for their monthly income cannot afford to pay back even these. So they wait and wonder and, above all else, hope. A few have sought shelter with their families in other towns. Still some find ways to live next to their annihilated houses, fearful that looters will take what little the storms have left them.
Assistance request forms are constantly filled out. Piles of paperwork must be kept track of by the already stressed out storm victims. Several will be approved, while others will be declined for various reasons. Residents do not always understand the legal jargon contained in the documents. Yet, the survivors press on, wishing for a way that money could fall as easily as the hail and rain fell that fateful March day.
No coordinating relief organization has been formed to really represent Daisy Hill. Fundraising drives for specific families have commenced. A granddaughter sells DVD footage of the tornado for $5 in hopes to reconstruct her non-insured Nanny Marilyn’s home, an endeavor that will require more than $50,000. Since the leveled house was built so long ago, more than $6,000 alone must be spent to upgrade the septic system so it will meet current government standards, a red-tape setback that stings for those already cash strapped.
Since the time of the tragedy, many individuals have helped the area, and local residents want to express their thanks. Amish families visited those affected and crafted shelves while helping with other rebuilding tasks. Neighbors drove their all-terrain vehicles around and pulled survivors from the rubble. Pekin’s The Original Pop-A-Top owner Theresa McCarty cooked for 16 hours straight to provide free, home cooked meals to those in need. Most that helped didn’t expect thanks, but they deserve it nonetheless.
Yet the survivors of Daisy Hill have also witnessed deceit. They say greedy people not affected by the storms have claimed gift cards and even cars meant for those in need with bogus addresses and other lies. Although becoming rarer each day, looters still occasionally try and steal what remains of the broken homes, a reminder that tragedies like these highlight both the good parts of the human spirit and the bad.
Above all, Daisy Hill, Pekin, Henryville, Nabb and Marysville still need assistance. A separate, defined organization that’s responsible for each community, especially for the smaller towns, would help bridge the gap in filling their needs.
Survivors would also like to see some accountability. Almost everyone I spoke with had not personally seen any of the immense amounts of money raised by charitable relief agencies in the days that followed the destruction. Many question if they ever will.
Although three months sounds like a long time for many of us, the clock has slowed down for these areas hit by the tornadoes. Long work days melt into worrisome nights. Thunder in the sky sends dogs howling and children screaming. Life is different now.
But most survivors still remain there on the hill, living and surviving the best they can. And until normalcy returns, if it ever returns, for now, that is all that really matters.