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Tornado leaves ‘scars’ behind

Harrison Countians who have traveled to the Southern Indiana communities stricken by the March 2 tornado are astounded by the damage and destruction they saw.
‘I couldn’t get over the damage,’ the Rev. Jeff Reed, pastor at Unity Chapel United Methodist Church, said Monday evening after spending four to five hours the previous day helping with clean-up efforts.
Reed and about 40 youth and adults worked with three youth groups from the Noblesville area that traveled to Southern Indiana to help Sunday afternoon.
‘The kids did a lot of work,’ Reed said, adding that it was ‘good for kids to see what can happen.’
Mostly the group picked up debris. Reed said they found some baby clothes still in good condition that were turned into a collection site for ‘found’ items so they might be claimed by their owners. Also among the rubble was a wedding announcement from 1966 and some family photographs.
Reed said he talked with one woman whose home was damaged in the storm that is believed to have started as a funnel cloud northwest of Milltown before it touched down in Washington County and traveled about 50 miles, through Clark County before crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky’s Trimble County.
‘I just told her I was praying for her,’ Reed said.
Jim Heitkemper and his son, Michael, were called to go to the Otisco, Marysville and Henryville communities on March 5, just three days after the tornado ripped through the area, to bid several home repair jobs.
‘What a sight to see,’ Heitkemper said. ‘On our approach to Marysville, I could see bonfires being fueled by skid steers and high lifts shuttling about. It seems at every bonfire chainsaws whined and hands of all ages were tossing refuse … Marysville has damage to every home and building in a mile-wide path,’ he said.
He noted how odd it was, that amid the destruction, some items had not been blown from their original location prior to the storm.
Heitkemper said he and his brothers worked on storm-damaged homes after the 1974 tornadoes.
‘To me, this damage is somewhat more intense than the April 3 tornado that went through Palmyra, Pekin and Borden,’ he said.
Thirteen people in Indiana lost their lives during the March 2 tornado.
At one home he noticed the ground was ‘pockmarked with tennis ball-size hail stones’ that Mother Nature dumped on the area during a second round of storms March 2. Heitkemper said everyone should be thankful that the storms arrived during the day, as possibly more lives might have been lost if they had ripped through the area at night.
As the father-son team approached Henryville, Heitkemper said the scene ‘was full of busted lumber, strips of tin wrapped around trees, insulation, toys, tools, blankets, curtains, clothes, furniture and appliances all littered into the mangled woods.’
As he surveyed the destruction, Heitkemper said he realized ‘the scars will be there decades from now … My heart aches for all the loss and suffering.
‘Mike and I realized it just as easily could have been our homes and towns,’ he said. ‘But fate and God’s hand spared us this time.’