‘Our house is your house’

A walk in the ruins of Marshalltown

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A Man sits among boxes of business records salvaged from a nearby grocery store. In the background, the owner of the Flying Elbow, Garrett Goodman, had hooked up a generator. He and his staff were cooking and serving hot dogs on the sidewalk.

Ten days ago, an EF3 tornado cut a path through the heart of Marshalltown.

It took about five minutes to pass through town.

In its wake it left ruble from buildings that have been standing for well over a century.

Almost 800 buildings were destroyed, damaged or otherwise affected.

This story isn’t about those buildings — they will be torn down and replaced or repaired.

It’s not about the steeple on the Marshall County Courthouse that was blown off and ended up on the lawn.

It’s not about the money it will cost to fix the damage.

It’s about the people that emerged the day after to begin picking up the pieces, the souls in a daze who were trying to make some sense of what had happened, slowly realizing that “normal” was a long ways down the road.

Garrett Goodman is one of those people. He owns the Flying Elbow, a downtown restaurant that specializes in gourmet hot dogs. His place was hit and damaged; an Asian Grocery Store next to it lay collapsed into its own interior. There was no electricity. Still, Goodman found a generator somewhere and hooked up his electric hot dog roller roaster and an electric skillet and began cooking.

Then he fed people.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The kitchen in the home of Evelyn Reynolds sustained substantial damage when the tornado his her 123 year-old home. The Jesus statue on the stove top had been sitting on the back of the stove when it was hit. Her family members found a hard-boiled egg from the fridge in another room and a car seat had been blown into the pantry though a window.

He would accept no money.

“It’s just something I can do,” he said.


A residential area northeast of downtown was hit hard.

There was a miracle there.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A Marshalltown resident stops to watch a downtown business owner board up a broken window at his business. Downtown damage ranged from a few broken windows to buildings that looked they’d been hit by a bomb.

Evelyn Reynolds was sitting in a chair in her home when the tornado hit it. The entire roof, attic and ceiling of her 123-year-old home were gone. A hard-boiled egg from her refrigerator was found by family members looking for pictures in another room. A car seat had been blown through her pantry window.

The only unbroken windows in the house were in the room in which she was sitting.

In her chair was an embroidered pillow that read: “I believe in angels.”


Jacoby Banderas, 4, lives with his family in a home along Bromley Street. It looked like a war zone. Debris had filled the street. A path had been hurriedly cleared to allow access.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A living room set, including the stuff on the end table, sits almost in the same position it was before the tornado hit. After the storm, the row of apartments it had been inside was gone into the debris field behind it.

Banderas spent some time looking over the rubble pile. Among the debris was his toy police car, smashed, broken — well beyond any chance of repair.

He walked up and just stared at it.


Carlos Cervantes, 10, and his brother Alan Cervantes, 3, live just around the corner from Banderas. Their home had sustained substantial damage.

Their yard was piled with debris, tree branches, chunks of homes and broken utility lines.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was surrounded by media and local officials in front of the Marshalltown Fire Department when she arrived to look at the damage and visit with local residents.

The older of the pair was pushing his brother around in a toy wagon, steering around the rubble and debris, going up and down the small hillside in the front yard.

The younger sibling laughed and giggled.


Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Cross had his hands full.

Besides dealing with the tornado, Cross was also busy making sure that there was water and food available in a bay of the fire station for the many out-of-town workers and volunteers.

He also dealt with having his fire station being mobbed by out-of-town media and visiting elected officials.

He was a gentleman. A class act. A demonstration of the selfless service that’s seen in firefighters, police officers and emergency medical workers.

“Our house,” he said, “is your house.”

Editor’s note: Reporter/photographer Hans Madsen and reporter Chad Thompson spent July 20 in Marshalltown helping out the staff of The Marshalltown Times-Republican with its coverage of the July 19 tornado.

Madsen almost always carries a film camera with him in addition to the digital cameras he uses for photographs in the newspaper and online.

He uses black and white film processed in his home darkroom. For publication, the negatives are scanned electronically.

“Film gives a certain look,” he said. “It’s different than digital. Both mediums have their own rightful place. Digital is fast, high quality and lends itself well to the immediacy of journalism. Film is slower, it gives you time to contemplate the images, process the emotions and react to what you saw.”


-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Casey’s Store on the east side of Marshalltown suffered heavy damage in the storm. The home of Evelyn Reynolds, at right, fared much worse. The 123-year-old home lost its roof and parts of a wall. Reynolds, who was sitting in her living room when the house was hit, suffered some minor cuts.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A number of flags that had been flying from various spots in downtown Marshalltown were put back up by whatever means could be found. This one was propped in the corner of a concrete wall. The flying flags seemed a symbol of the community spirit to rise and repair.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Tom Miller, of Clive, stands on a pile of debris and fallen trees as he measures a window at the Marshall County Historic Museum so it can be boarded up. The building sustained damage but it appeared nothing inside was hurt.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Harold Cline arrives in downtown Marshalltown to look over the damage at his photo studio carrying his digital camera. The building next to his studio had collapsed.