One Year After Tornadoes, Henryville Still Rebuilding

Several buildings in Henryville have been restored, but much work still needs to be done.

  • Henryville tornado

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    Photo: Dan Goldblatt/Indiana Public Media News

    Henryville High School was badly damaged by the storms.

  • Henryville High School

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    Photo: Ashley Spesard/WFIU News

    Henryville High School has been largely restored after it was badly damaged by tornadoes last year.

  • Auto Repair Store

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    Photo: Gretchen Frazee/Indiana Public Media News

    An auto repair store sign lies in front of the ruins of Henryville Auto Service.

  • Henryville Auto Service

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    Photo: Ashley Spesard/WFIU News

    Henryville Auto Service was rebuilt after it was flattened by the tornadoes.

  • school bus

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    Photo: Gretchen Frazee/Indiana Public Media News

    The tornado threw a school bus into a Henryville resident's house where several people were taking shelter in the basement.

  • Budroe's bus stop

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    Photo: Ashley Spesard/WFIU News

    Budroe's Bus Stop was rebuilt and renamed for the school bus that slammed into it during the 2012 tornadoes.

  • Leveled trees

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    Photo: Gretchen Frazee/Indiana Public Media News

    Trees and remains of houses mingle on Saturday, March 3, 2012.

  • Houses henryville

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    Photo: Ashley Spesard/WFIU News

    Debris still sits in several lots in Henryville on Feb. 26, 2013.

  • Presbyterian Church

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    Photo: Gretchen Frazee/Indiana Public Media News

    Several residents took cover from the tornado in the Henryville Community Presbyterian Church.

  • Marysville Community Center

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    Photo: Ashley Spesard/WFIU News

    A dumpster full of debris sits in front of the Marysville Community Center

It was March 2, 2012. Temperatures in southern Indiana were unseasonably warm, and a cold front was about to bring a powerful line of storms through the area. While Hoosier families knew the chance for tornadoes were high, none of the residents of Henryville knew their town was about to be changed forever. Since then, residents of Clark County have come together, and are rebuilding as a community.

Budroe’s Bus Stop

When Budroe Sykes heard the tornado sirens in his small diner on U.S. 31 across from Henryville High School, he took his customers, employees, and even people off the street, and ushered them into the basement.

As the tornado passed above them, a large explosion shook the walls of the sturdy subterranean shelter. Once the worst of the storm passed, Sykes went to investigate what had happened.

“Damn bus came through it,” he says.

A full size school bus had been thrown from the high school parking lot into his store, completely destroying the building. That iconic image circulated in newspapers and on websites across the county.

Instead of giving up or resenting the obliterated building that was once his livelihood, Sykes and his wife decided to embrace their circumstance. After months of rebuilding, they opened up Budroe’s Bus Stop, a school bus-themed restaurant sitting in the same spot his old place stood.

For Sykes’though, the loss of the restaurant was only a temporary setback. He says many of his neighbors in Henryville lost much more than that.

“We were just out a paycheck, but the rest of the people lost their homes, they lost everything they worked for,” Sykes says. “They are the ones that hurt.  Mean, we got hurt, losing our stuff, but we still had a place to lay our head down on. These people didn’t.”

Rebuilding As A Community

While many of the homes and businesses in Henryville were destroyed by the twister, in the nearby hamlet of Marysville, nearly every single structure was destroyed. Despite most residents losing their homes, nearly every person has returned, and is rebuilding.

Teresa Stewart works at the Marysville post office. It was one of the only buildings left intact, and neighbors often gather there now to chit chat and catch up. She says it is that sense of small town togetherness that pulled everyone back after the storm.

“Small communities are a good place to be,” Stewart says. “Everybody pulls together and we all stick together, We go back to the old times where we have people living with people right now, staying with people. People are opening up their homes for people to stay, and they have been staying there a year.”

Thousands of volunteers from across the county came to help, many with their own knowledge of building trades. John Perkins is a Clark County Commissioner. He says that support helped jumpstart the rural economy.

“We had people going through acres and acres picking up debris, so the farmers could get their crops in, which they did last summer,” Perkins says.

Even though so many buildings were completely blown away by the storm, there were no deaths in Marysville or Henryville. Many people did what Budroe Sykes did, and brought people without underground shelters into their homes and businesses until the storm passed. It is those kinds of actions, Sykes says, that encourage people to come back and rebuild.

Dan Goldblatt

Dan Goldblatt is the Multi-media Producer for WFIU/WTIU News. A graduate of Indiana University, he studied journalism and anthropology. He currently lives in Bloomington with his cat, June Carter.

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