‘I believe in Angels’
Marshalltown residents reflect after tornado sweeps through community
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Messenger and The Times-Republican in Marshalltown are both owned by Ogden Newspapers Inc. To assist fellow journalists in tornado-ravaged Marshalltown, The Messenger sent reporter-photographer Hans Madsen and reporter Chad Thompson there. The work of Madsen and Thompson is appearing in both papers.
By CHAD THOMPSON
MARSHALLTOWN – A man curled up in the corner of a stairwell holding his terrified young son was the first image Denise Weimer recalls seeing when she walked outside of the business she works at in downtown Marshalltown following a devastating tornado that ripped through the community Thursday evening.
“They were crouched down in the corner,” Weimer said on Friday. “When I saw them down there and that little boy — he was so scared. It was awful.”
During the tornado, Weimer had heard someone knocking on the window outside Hair Junkie, 202 E. State St., but it wasn’t safe at that time for anyone to go out into the elements.
“We couldn’t go up,” she said. “Fortunately, no one was hurt.”
Officials in Marshalltown reported on Friday that there were no known casualties. It was also reported that injuries were “limited.”
The National Weather Service confirmed it was an EF3 tornado, with winds about 144 mph.
Weimer was first alerted to the incoming tornado by an insurance agent who works nearby.
“He told us we all need to head to the basement,” Weimer said.
A client of Weimer’s had just walked into the salon at about 4:45 p.m.
Between 4:50 p.m. and 4:55 p.m., about 12 people there took shelter, she said.
“It almost felt like the basement was going to cave in,” Weimer said. “There was dust and debris falling on us.”
The roof of the salon caved in, but Weimer said the structure should be salvageable.
“My stuff can be replaced,” Weimer said. “I don’t have a place to work, but we’ll figure it out.”
Vicki Butler and Deloris Ryan, who work at McRill-Stowell-Christensen Insurance, also witnessed the young boy and his father outside.
“The boy climbed in the back,” Butler said. “They rode out the tornado from outside.”
She added, “They crawled underneath the stairs. The little boy was devastated.”
Ryan was sorting through family photos. Dirt that was forced through the building from the wind had damaged them.
“These pictures won’t make it,” Ryan said.
Jonah Patterson, of 204 E. State St., said he saw debris flying around before he headed for the basement.
Patterson, too, recalled the young boy and his father huddled beneath the steps.
“That was the scariest thing,” he said. “I am glad they’re OK.”
When asked if he knew the boy, Patterson said, “I think they were just driving by and tried to take shelter where they could.”
It wasn’t the first twister Patterson had experienced.
“Sad to say this isn’t the first time I’ve been through it,” he said.
Patterson said he was working at a convenience store in Parkersburg in 2008.
There, he took shelter in a bathroom.
“It was the same thing — a lot of noise,” he said. “A lot of people screaming.”
At 112 N. Third Ave., Glen Reynolds was trying to save some items from his mother’s home.
“The worst part was she was sitting right there when it happened,” Reynolds said, pointing to a white recliner in the living room. “She ended up with two knicks on her legs. It’s a miracle.”
A pillow that read, “I believe in Angels,” sat untouched in the chair.
It was the only room in the house without shattered windows.
“She said she was sitting there and all of a sudden things were flying around and then it was gone,” Reynolds said. “She called and told me she was fine, and then I came over and said, ‘No you’re not fine.'”
Reynolds said the home is 123 years old.
His wife, Michelle Reynolds, said their house across town didn’t get hit as hard.
“We can’t take care of our stuff right now,” she said. “We have to salvage what we can here.”
Glen Reynolds said people haven’t hesitated to lend a helping hand.
“It was definitely Marshalltown pulling together,” he said. “Iowa pulling together.”
Michelle Reynolds added, “I got emotional when I saw the Parkersburg fire truck pull up. We’ve had lots of people already reach out to us.”
At 308 Bromley St., Pam Hammer stayed with her husband, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
“He rested his head on my shoulder,” she said. “I was scared to death.”
The couple has lived at their home together for 46 years.
“All your life, you take care of your place, raise your kids here, and one day the wind comes and takes it all away,” Hammer said.
“It’s just lucky there were no fatalities,” she added.
Their neighborhood appeared to be one of the hardest hit.
Greg Yarnell lives just a couple houses down at 310 Bromley St.
The American flag was displayed at the top of his house, while rubble filled his front yard.
“I figured with all this devastation, the flag needed to be out,” he said.