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Monday, 20 June 2011


By Ann Favreau

Russell sat at his kitchen table feeling melancholy about the loss of his wife last fall. The sound of a freight train broke his reverie. He knew something was wrong. There were no trains near him in this small town of Monson, Massachusetts.

He quickly headed for the cellar. As he tried to close the cellar door, it was grabbed by the tornado winds that threw him down the stairs to the floor.

June 1, 2011 would be the day he would long remember as would thousands of people in Springfield, Westfield and West Springfield, Massachusetts. Several massive tornados tore through these cities wreaking havoc and destruction and claiming several lives.

As Russell lay beneath the rubble, he was thankful to be alive. It took 20 minutes to dig himself out. There above him was not the floor of his house but the sky.

As he rose and found the steps leading to the yard, he wondered what had happened to his two-story cape that had been his home since 1966. The sight was incomprehensible. In the front yard smashed against an old tree were the ruins of the dwelling that housed the tangible assets of his married life.

In shock, he approached the remains. There on the ground lay some of his Girl Scout memorabilia. He and his wife had been involved with scouting for over 40 years and his collection had been extensive. He gathered what he could and placed them in a pile.

He salvaged some pictures and personal effects. The next day, FEMA would arrive and declare the house unsafe for entry.

The once quiet street in the town where he had lived all his life was now a disaster. Some houses, like his, were completely wrecked. Others had only a few missing shingles. Neighbors emerged and offered cell phones so people could contact their loved ones. Russell called his children.

He arranged to spend the night with one of his daughters. His son planned to fly from North Carolina to help. People on the street brought food and water and hugged those suffering from disbelief and distress by the events that happened without warning.

Soon the National Guard, FEMA, local security and the Red Cross arrived to assess the situation and provide support. Russell was overwhelmed when 50 people showed up the next day. A few of them he knew, but the rest were strangers who volunteered to help him sort what was left in the cellar and what lay on the ground.

When he was interviewed by a TV news crew, his eyes filled with tears as he spoke about the goodness of those who brought food and water and offered equipment to clear the debris. Russell knew that the town of Monson was a close knit community. It became even more evident as the residents came together to provide assistance and console the victims.

Caring people attempted to negate the devastation of the tornados. The best qualities of human nature were pitted against the deadly power of nature. Russell would remember them both.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Beautifully and heartbreakingly told.

Great writing, we have gotten used to these stories being many miles away from nyc and environs..My youngest son & his wife and 5 children live in North Carolina & I have visited twice for graduations in last month...he took me on a short tour of devastation there of army family quarters and "his" local go to place for fruit & vegetables, gone, all gone..as I read your beautifully written piece today, I felt the same horror..let us hope we could all be those caring neighbors..and never be the poor guy who lost his home and peace of mind in those seconds...

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