Today the Kindergarten/1st Grade class I work with in the afternoons at school took an impromptu "field trip" to deliver a thank you gift to Urban Homeworks, the organization that spearheaded clean-up efforts after the tornado that hit our neighborhood a year ago today. The children decorated little paper houses with words of gratitude and peace, cut them out, taped them together and placed them on cardboard which they decorated with streets, lawns and flowers. It was a simple act of gratitude for the efforts done by the people at Urban Homeworks (who renovated our house before we purchased it).
Our tornado wasn't the worst. It was overshadowed by much more sever tornado outbreaks that same day (Joplin, Missouri, namely), but it impacted our community and our city. Ours is about the poorest neighborhood in the Twin Cities. Foreclosures have hit hard here (I've heard various facts). According to MPR, 80% of the households affected by the tornado were on public assistance of some kind. 3700 homes were damaged or destroyed; all but a small handful haven't been touched (I was told today only 16 haven't been touched at all). FEMA denied any assistance to individuals, but the community moved forward (with the help of a lot of great volunteers).
Many homes have been fixed. Some were just torn down. The city has replanted trees on the blocks that lost so many. But there is still a lot of work to do. There are still houses that are abandoned. Still tarps covering roofs. Business lots that stand empty.
The pictures I took today were from the same street I took pictures from last year following the tornado. I could have shown worse pictures, I could have shown better; these were the scenes on those couple of blocks. The nakedness of the streets without trees is the most visual reminder of the tornado--Minneapolis has trees providing a canopy on almost all its streets.
The economics of our neighborhood come into play, of course. Many people didn't have insurance. One-third of the residences affected were rentals. Landlords often live in the suburbs and don't care much about what happens in the inner city (maybe that's a bit cynical but I think it's fairly accurate).
And it also reminds us that recovery takes time. Haiti is still recovering from its earthquake in 2010. Japan still shows much devastation and lack of progress from the tsunami that hit it almost a year-and-a-half ago. Recovery takes time. And fixing outward appearance doesn't mean that the deeper issues are taken care of yet. Many people still have traumatic responses when the emergency sirens go off.
Recovery seems to have happened the quickest with those who were ready to stand fast and move forward. Some turned inward in anger ("why did this happen?") and others chose not to partake in recovery. Some reach out for help; others expected help to come to them. Some had the money for moving forward; others will continue to have to work hard to come up with the funds to restore their property. We needed to be ready to do the work ourselves, but we also needed help from outside. Maybe our neighborhood is a good analogy for people and how they choose to deal with the things that affect them (I'm feeling it is for me at least)...
(do a word search for "tornado" on this site to see pics from last summer)