One year after a devastating tornado tore through Fairdale, Illinois, the community continues to rebuild.
The EF-4 tornado ripped through the small DeKalb County town on April 9, 2015, killing two people and sweeping away 21 homes.
Clem Schultz lost his wife Geri in the deadly tornado. He thought the storm would miss Fairdale completely, so he ran upstairs to take photos.
“I felt the house quiver. Part of my roof flew down in front of me, and then my floor started moving and I thought, ‘it didn't miss us,’” Schultz said. “All hell broke loose and the house came down on top of me, chimney on top of me. I got pretty well beat up.”
“In a classic pattern, southwest to northeast, it cut through Fairdale like it had a target on its back,” said Bill Nicklas, vice president of DeKalb County’s Long-Term Recovery Corp.
Since the tornado, the non-profit organization has been working with private donations and no federal money to rebuild the town, which has a population of 150. So far, they’ve built new storm sewers, a community septic field, and a new city park.
“Within the first couple of months, it was clear people wanted to come back here,” said Nicklas. “This is their home.”
The new additions to the town, also include a tower that provides residents with WiFi access to the Internet for the first time.
Of the 63 families who lived in Fairdale when the deadly twister struck, only three have left, and there have been 15 new housing starts.
“My kids were raised here,” said 30-year resident John Radostits, whose home rebuild is nearly complete. “I don't think I would ever leave. We had to build back.”
“It's very humbling to be involved in this, to see the courage of people who have been through what they have been through,” said Nicklas.
At a ceremony Saturday, Geri Schultz and Jacklyn Klossa, the two women killed by the tornado, will be remembered with a bench at Fairdale’s new park.