For those of us who live and work in Marshalltown, we won’t soon forget the afternoon of Thursday, July 19. We won’t forget where we were; what we did the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th time the sirens sounded; we won’t forget who we checked on between 3:45 and 4:45 that life changing afternoon; we won’t forget what we saw and who we talked to after the tornado hit; we won’t forget the family and friends we tried to reach; and we most certainly won’t forget the pictures and destruction we saw after. For those who were in the path of destruction, lives, memories, and stories are much different than those who witnessed the aftermath. No one will ever fully understand what it was like to experience some of the horrific stories we’ve heard.
If you’ve grown up in the midwest, you’ve spent your life practicing for this. Like most, you probably never thought you’d actually experience it. It was like living in two separate communities that day. One that was “just another tornado warning” like all the rest. The ones where you tell children, “It’s ok. It’s just a precaution in case it gets windy and stuff hits the windows. We’ve been doing this our whole life and nothing bad has ever happened.” That’s not entirely true, we’ve had floods, ice storms, and straight line winds that have wrecked havoc on our community. But none of that compares to what happened to our community on July 19, 2018. The “other” community experienced things that will never be forgotten. Terror and horror surrounded them while they worried about loved ones, tried to find the safest place to be, or were responsible for keeping others calm and safe. As the south side looked out at bright sunny skies, the north side was stumbling through wreckage. We lived in two different communities that day and you can see the line as you cross town.
We can no longer say that nothing bad has ever happened after the tornado sirens. Our community will treat tornado sirens much differently now and most of us will fear it’s sound. Many will probably fear the Tuesday morning test that sounds every week at 9am. From being annoyed at the sheer volume of the downtown siren to being ever grateful at it’s location and volume. All are sure to have mixed emotions going forward.
In the days that have followed, there are a few things we do know...
- A steady stream of volunteers have been on the north side of Marshalltown, running a non-stop operation of utility work, clean-up, medical help, and food/beverage delivery. Friends helping friends, strangers helping fellow citizens, and people helping a community they’ve never heard of. Volunteers from within the community, state, and far beyond the Iowa lines have stepped up to put our community back together.
- Emergency disaster rescue and recovery plans began immediately. Responders rushed into the City minutes after the tornado hit. Minutes. Within 10 minutes of the 4th siren, state troopers were seen racing into town from the south. They were speeding into the heart of the destruction before citizens south of the downtown even knew anything had happened.
The miraculous stories of people coming together are nothing short of beautiful and tear-jerking. We know we’ll never truly know the half of these wonderful stories of assistance, but we hope to uncover and share some of them as we move forward in the weeks and months to come.
Marshalltown is an innovative and collaborative community. Disaster or no disaster, we work together to take care of our community. The resounding story in local and national news has been one of perseverance and pride for how our community is working together.