An EF-3 tornado shattered parts of Jefferson City on May 22, but the town’s spirit remains strong. Mayor Carrie Tergin says the twister has forever changed the city.
“We are not the same community we were before and we’re not the same people that we were. When you go through something like this and you’re directly involved and you see it in your community, you suddenly value life, you value your friends and family so much more and just differently. It’s hard to explain until you go through it,” says Tergin. “You’re just so thankful, number one, to be alive. You’re thankful that your family is okay. The people – that’s what matters. It’s not the things. We can rebuild these things. That’s not what’s important. It’s important that we take care of each other and we have each other. Those days following the tornado we saw it – it was the most real, raw, genuine, true people.”
She references a saying that there’s not much stronger than nails.
“We are stronger than nails here in Jefferson City and we are going to rebuild this community one nail at a time or one million nails at a time,” she says. “This tornado might have destroyed some things but we learned things are just things, we can rebuild these houses and we take care of each other.”
The dust is settling and rebuilding efforts are ramping up to get the Capital City back to normal.
Mid Continent Steel and Wire from southeast Missouri’s Poplar Bluff has given the town’s rebuild a boost by donating one million nails to the River City Habitat for Humanity. The company hammered out the nails in a matter of a couple of hours, loaded them up in a semi and drove them to mid Missouri last week.
During a ceremony to celebrate the gift, Operations Manager Chris Pratt, says the company is glad to have increased sales to be in a position to give back.
“It’s kind of ironic that us being able to donate these nails goes along with our company’s mission statement. Our mission statement is to build and secure our future, your future and our kids’ futures,” says Pratt.
Tergin has been at the forefront of leading the city through the disaster, especially through the shock phase. She has put the word out to help residents get the essentials – a roof over their heads, a shirt on their back, food, tornado cleanup help, among other things. She’s been consistent in remaining hopeful to help residents put their lives back together.
“As you come through the neighborhoods and you see foundations and that’s all you see,” she says. “It’s really scary when you drive by and see some of those – where you just see a foundation. But it’s also ironic because our city has a strong foundation. It’s because of all of you here. It’s because of these volunteers, the organizations and leadership in our state that has been with us here since day one.”
She says Jefferson City has a long road to recovery and pacing will get the community through the lengthy journey.
Susan Cook-Williams, executive director of River City Habitat for Humanity, says life hasn’t slowed down since the twister hit.
“A lot of people have moved on. A lot of people have forgotten and it’s just something we are living and breathing still,” she says. “Missouri is ranked 41st in the nation for housing affordability. The tornado that raged through our town back in May, just kind of wound that has made that even worse.”
She says tornado-related projects are parallel to what the organization is already doing.
“We’re already maxed out with funds and maxed out with volunteers. We’re really looking for the community to get behind us,” she says. “Now we’re starting to talk recovery and rebuild. Now is when we come into play. We’re hoping to see that outpouring and desire for people to really help us.”
The organization has 113 houses it has built or renovated. About one dozen of them were damaged by the twister, but none of the homes were a total loss.
About 240 homes and properties were damaged or destroyed by the tornado.
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