SULLIVAN COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – “Our community came together very, very well. We have to be proud. We have to be proud,” Kelli Cole, a Sullivan County resident, said as she reflected on the last six months since the small community was devastated by an EF-3 tornado the night of March 31.
Just a few days after the deadly storm, WTWO’s Jen Thompson shared Kelli and her husband Rich’s story of survival as they dug their way out of their basement. They lost their home, farm, and worldly possessions that night.
Six months after the devastation, the Coles said, “We’re rebuilding. His shop is close to being done. He’s able to use it now,” Kelli said. “And the house is about 2-3 weeks, we can move in. So, it’s getting really close.”
Planting and harvest season have kept Rich busy, his mind at ease. Kelli has focused on insurance claims and the home build. Neither of them takes for granted their situation and where they are in the recovery process.
A process Sullivan Mayor Clint Lamb said is long-term recovery, “While there is a lot of great progress going, you’re seeing homes being built, you’re seeing lives be restored, we continue to mourn those losses over the last six months.”
A community still mourning, still waiting.
“Six months of still not knowing,” Lamb said. “Still uncertainty. Maybe it’s fighting with our insurance; maybe FEMA stepped up but not in the way to make you whole.”
The Mayor recalled a recent conversation with a resident and fellow classmate. He said she spoke about her challenges.
“She’s still not home,” Lamb said. “She’s living in a motel,” he added.
Lamb said his classmate also spoke about the psychological effects her son still faces. And recalled a conversation she said he recently had with her son.
“He looked at his mom and said, ‘Yeah, Mom. But the other kids have a house to go home to.'”
A house. A home. In the eyes of a child, Sullivan still needs your help for the long term, on the long road to recovery.
But even through the hard times, the community continues to be ‘Sullivan Strong.’
Fighting back the tears as she reflected on those days following the storm, Kelli said, “I don’t think other communities could have done it like we did.”