Residents packed the Rochelle Township High School atrium Saturday, exactly one year after the EF 4 tornado forever changed their lives.
“Many of my friends lost homes,” said Jenny Thompson, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for the City of Rochelle. “[And] it was just shocking to hear that their homes were gone and that they had lost everything.”
Like many that day, Thompson can remember exactly where she was just before the storm hit.
“We were outside playing, my daughters were playing with worms because it had just rained, but it was so warm it was just a nice evening,” she said.
But, minutes later, the tornado would tear through completely destroying homes and buildings, including the Grubsteakers restaurant. That’s when the community sprang into action to help those who had just been hit, something Thompson says speaks volumes about their small town attitude.
“We are a close knit community and when the going gets tough these people just wrap their arms around each other and are here for each other,” Thompson said.
The help didn’t stop there with many across the country sending aid any way they could.
“[We had] food, water, you name it. [It] all came together in [such a] quick order that was just overwhelming,” Rochelle Mayor Chet Olson remembered. “[And] we are so thankful for everybody that supported this whole project.”
But through all the tragedy, both Thompson and Mayor Olson say this is something that will just make the whole town stronger.
“It’s just been incredible,” Thompson admitted. “You’ll see throughout here today these hub strong shirts and that’s kind of been our slogan since day one, and it is a true representation of our community.”