Devastated Midwestern towns face startling question: Should we even rebuild?
In Marysville, Ind., resident are faced with a stark choice. Rebuild, though no one knows who will pay for it, or abandon the town and start a new life somewhere else. It's a decision that's played out before and continues to play out in small towns practically wiped from the map by violent tornadoes.
Small towns across the South and Midwest continue to rebuild after a series of deadly tornadoes swept through late last week, killing at least 46 people and leaving dozens more homes flattened.
What happens when the destruction of a town is so severe that you can’t pick up the pieces? What happens if you can’t patch a community back together? In Greensburg, Kan., and Joplin, Mo., those were real possibilities, but the communities recovered, in the case of Greensburg, or are on the road to recovery, in the case of Joplin.
But in some places, smaller even than Greensburg, population not even 780 in the 2010 census, that will be tough.
Marysville is a small town in southeast Indiana. It has only one store, a community center, a church, and a couple dozen houses, all confined to little more than a single block. Today, the town lies in ruins. A twister swept through last Friday, destroying nearly all of the homes and ripping apart the community center and church.
Tammy Sherrard, whose home in Marysville was destroyed in the storm, was in a neighboring community, where her family was already planning to move, when the storm hit. There's nothing left of the old place but a concrete slab.
"It looks like an atomic bomb had been dropped off on (the town)," she said. "There's nothing there."
Disaster crews have said that all the buildings in the town have to be bulldozed because they're so badly damaged.
Jack Nicas, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was in Marysville, or what's left of it, over the weekend.
"Literally every home is ruined. Some are still standing but will eventually have to come down because they're unsafe to live in," Nicas said. "The community center lost its roof. The church shifted off its foundation.
"Every resident I spoke to is now faced with the decision of whether or not ro rebuild, or just to leave the town as it is."
Debbie Gilbert, a Marysville resident, said she wasn't sure it was feasible to rebuild, even if the whole town wanted to.
"Economically, it may be a little more than we can handle," Gilbert said.
Nicas said Marysville, tragically, is home to many people who aren't covered by insurance — which puts them in the position of choosing to pay for their own repairs or simply to go somewhere else.
"This is a town that goes back about 140 years. It sprouted up around a railroad station," Nicas said. "A lot of these people have lived there for generations. Their homes were handed down to them from their grandparents. Because there was no mortgage, there was no requirement to have insurance, and many people didn't."
Sherrard is one of those without insurance. She said there was nothing left.
"We searched for three days and all we found was muddy pictures and torn clothes that was hanging from trees," she said.
She said a volunteer also found a ring that was passed down through the family, buried in still more mud.
Nicas said FEMA funds will only cover a fraction of the losses sustained by the community — and much of that will be needed just to complete the clean-up.
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