Irrepressible, spirited, resistant, durable, feisty.
These are just a few of the synonyms for resilient. Many of you are probably aware of the tornado that ripped through a 17-mile span of northern Richland, hitting the south side of the city of Shelby, as well as areas of the township just outside of the city. Thankfully, and most importantly, there were no life threatening injuries, and no loss of life in this weather event. The business district along state route 39 was hit pretty hard, total loss experienced at one business, and damage to several others that have put them out of commission temporarily. The infrastructure in the city was hit hard. Lines down, poles snapped in half, debris covering roadways limiting access to first responders and utility linesman. In the residential areas, the path of the EF2 tornado was both evident and chaotic. Why did it choose one house to decimate and leave a building not 30 feet away completely intact? Some homes were missing a roof, some outbuildings were reduced to piles of two by fours and insulation. Metal sheeting was strewn throughout the adjacent fields and wrapped like a bow around utility poles and road signs. Trees completely obstructed front doors, front yards, and roadways. You get the picture, it was a mess.
Now for the resiliency part. This is not Shelby’s first tornado. It’s not Shelby’s first natural disaster to strike within the city limits. It’s not their first rodeo. It would be easy to be frustrated. To see this as a setback when we were gaining some positive momentum. We’ve been working on projects to increase attention to our industrial sites, revitalizing downtown, efforts to spur additional private investment. Then this, in the midst of all of the work to make things better. But instead of feeling defeated, I saw the city of Shelby rise to the occasion. It became immediately clear that there is no quit in Shelby. Neighbor helping neighbor, businesses opening even Sunday evening to serve hotdogs to first responders and people trapped waiting to get out of the disaster zone. Keeping their doors open as people might need supplies from the local hardware store. The municipal utilities wasted zero time isolating the hard hit area of the city and restoring power to the rest of the town just hours after the tornado made its appearance.
It didn’t stop there. As the week carried on, citizen coalitions banded together and went from home to home, cleaning up debris, cutting up trees, offering their friends and neighbors food, shelter, support. The high school FFA spent their spring break cleaning debris from fields. There were emergency shelters set up at the YMCA, no one stayed. They all had someone to help them out. Sweet Dreams Bakery and Ted and Ali’s Café partnered with Ohio Health to prepare and serve thousands of meals to lineman, first responders, and victims of the tornado. Lineman from across the state and even one crew from Michigan came to Shelby offering mutual aid to get the power back on in the hardest hit areas. They said they had never been fed so well, often having multiple choices as meals were delivered to the work sites. Countless organizations throughout the city and county called, offered help, offered donations, and offered their support as Shelby picked itself up, dusted off, and prepared to rebuild. When volunteers were needed, often more showed up to help than there was work to be done. Certainly Shelby wasn’t alone in this effort, crews came from all across the county offering their help, showing what it means to be a good neighbor. To take care of the people in your own back yard. The whole thing, while beginning with tragedy, should be a proud moment for Richland county, and for resilient, irrepressible, spirited, durable, feisty, Shelby.