Three years after devastating tornadoes, Pekin, Ind. remembers - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Three years after devastating tornadoes, Pekin, Ind. remembers

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It has been three years since tornadoes ripped through Pekin, Indiana. Today, the town is a story of healing and heartbreak.

Saroyan Hardwoods took a direct hit in the heart of Pekin.

"I looked up and there it was," said David Leep. "I had, like, a minute."

Leep says he remembers like it was yesterday.

"I couldn't decide which way to go, so I went into the office to warn them and hid in the house," Leep said.

Saroyan never rebuilt.

"We thought for six months the place was going to reopen," Leep said.

"Did people move out of Pekin because of it?" WDRB's Gilbert Corsey asked.

"Some of them," Leep said.

Leep stays on the job in the same place. New Albany based Globe Industries bought the land and kept the Saroyan workers that hadn't found new jobs. He spends his days now as a pipe fabricator, but when the anniversaries come, the memories linger -- including memories of debris passing in front of his eyes.

"I could still see it going that-away," Leep points.

Going toward Worley Lumber Company, where Roger Lanham works.

"All the buildings are new except for half the saw mill building," Lanham said.

It took two years and $1 million for Worley Lumber to rebuild .

"I guess it brought a lot of the community more together...people helping each other out," Lanham said.

Throughout this small town, you can see the stories of healing and heartbreak: new homes sitting next to what's left of others. Today, three years after the storm, you can see a mangled mess of what was still lying about in Pekin, abandoned tractor trailers, pickup trucks and homes damaged by the storm. The spot where the tornado ripped a family of five away from a home and dropped their bodies in the field is marked by a cross.

All of them died.

For Lanham seeing the field littered in debris is like looking at s a scar that never fades. He found little Angel Babcock, the baby and youngest family member who died, and he still works with the girl's grandfather.

"It's been tough on him, but he's strong and he keeps coming every day," Lanham said.

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, but you don't need that many to capture life in Pekin after the storm. Perhaps you just need one: resilience.

"It is better, actually," Leep said.

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