SULLIVAN, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — The sun was shining a little brighter at the Sullivan City Pool Monday for the first official opening day of the 2023 season; a welcomed experience to residents after an EF-3 tornado caused destruction to the pool and neighborhood at the end of March.

Sullivan Mayor, Clint Lamb recalled the night to storm devasted his community.

“If you remember during the night of March 31st and the early hours of April 1st, this was kind of a gathering place. We literally had citizens coming up to the pool because there was a generator on and you could actually see light when the entire city was pitch black,” Lamb said.

The smell of sunscreen. The sound of little feet pitter-pattering across the lily pads. The spring of the diving board as another swimmer flipped into the pool. The screams of excitement and joy were contagious on opening day at Splash Sullivan.

A group of 8th grade girls from Sullivan Middle School were so excited to be at the pool. With family passes in hand, they said they were excited to spend every day at the pool this summer with friends.

“Words can’t express the emotions I feel right now,” Lamb said. “Because it’s so much more than just the opening of the city pool, right. It’s a big day. It’s Memorial Day, It’s the recovery of a community, it’s the tight nit spirit of a community, it’s resilience.”

Lamb said the tornado caused approximately $400,000 in damages to the pool. Individuals and organizations pulled together in a hurry to get it up and running.

“The Sullivan City pool is a testament to how amazing the community is,” Lamb said. “We came together and finally for the first time since 2017 we’re going to have our first official full season.”

Towering above the devastated neighborhood are two water slides. While they might not seem like a lot to some, many people see the slides when driving through the devastation. And from the top of the slides is a view of what’s left from the devastation.

As for the opening of the pool, many see it as a sign.

“I think it’s just a beautiful sign of hope,” Lifeguard Molly Ranard said.

“It’s a beacon of hope,” Lamb said. “And it’s a bright spot in an area that was very, very dark. The community once again came together and now rising from the ashes, so to speak, is the Sullivan City Pool.”

While many residents are still working out the logistics of damage to their property, the opening of the Sullivan pool offers a glimmer of hope after some very dark days.