A walk in the ruins of Marshalltown
Twelve 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.
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.
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.
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.
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: This story first ran in The Messenger on July 29. Reporter/photographer Hans Madsen and reporter Chad Thompson spent July 20 in Marshalltown helping out the staff of the 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.”