The future is bright: Marshalltown Strong

I’d never seen anything like it in my life. It was like a scene out of a movie — yes, cliche, but it was the reality.

When we were down in the basement of the Times-Republican, I thought it was just typical Tornado Warning protocol. Really, it felt like a nuisance with all the work that needed to still get done that day, but you have to follow the rules even if you’ve been through plenty of Tornado Warnings that yield nothing but dark skies. I even brought material to edit down to the basement in case we were there awhile.

Then the lights went out.

Our publisher, Abigail Pelzer, was making sure everyone in the building had gone to the basement. We heard her scream from upstairs. She was pulling in a teen, Daniel Fiser, from the street and they both joined us in the basement shortly after.

A window blew out in the basement and all of a sudden the pressure on my ears was so intense that I felt like I was on a space shuttle going to the moon. We could hear all kinds of banging against the building. My dad had texted me “Tornado heading our way” just a couple minutes before and when I tried to respond, my phone couldn’t send the message.

We knew it was the real deal. But I still wasn’t expecting to see what I saw when we got outside.

I looked south and west first. Cars smashed and turned every direction. Trees uprooted. Windows gone. When I turned around to look east I did a double take. Something wasn’t right about the skyline and it took me a few seconds to process that the top of the courthouse was gone. I could feel my eyes widen in shock.

In my first ‘The future is bright’ column, I asked people to write in and tell me if they had any ideas for me to write about. The column was written before the tornado (though it was published after). As it did for so many other people in town, the storm reshaped my priorities for the next several … well, for awhile. At the same time, the recovery efforts we’ve seen are a perfect topic for this column.

Reader Ray Mitchem wrote to me and suggested I talk about the collaborative efforts that have come together so far in tornado recovery. Ray is right. Collaboration is key and will continue to be key, especially as the shock wears off and recovery becomes an everyday reality.

The more we can all come together, the better our recovery efforts will be. So far, we’ve shown that with all kinds of organizations helping those displaced or affected, volunteers from all over assisting with cleanup and businesses coming together to show support.

We have to realize the storm impacted so many people. This tornado impacted our people, our businesses and our public resources. But the impact is significantly different from person to person depending on things like the extent of the damage and whether they were insured. We have to keep all of these people in mind.

No one organization or individual is going to repair the community. That effort will require collaboration. It’s even evident in the theme of recovery — Marshalltown Strong — that we all must be in this together.

In order to do that, we need effective civil discourse. At the T-R, we have been working hard to get out as much information as possible, but there is still so much more to get out there and so many more questions that need to be answered. We have to have discussions. I invite you to write in a letter to the editor or send in questions you want us to find out.

Recovery will require a lot of action and we’ll need effective civil discourse to do that. The future is bright for Marshalltown if we all collaborate.


‘The future is bright’ is a bi-monthly column from

T-R News Editor Emily Barske focusing on young people,

innovation and civil discourse.

Have a suggested topic or feedback?

Contact her at

or 641-753-6611.