Cardinal Stritch Catholic senior Austin Pratt saw his family’s home destroyed by an EF4 tornado that struck Lake Township in 2010, and volunteers arrived to help his family.
So, when Oregon residents saw their homes damaged by an EF2 tornado on Nov. 17, he wanted to do what he could. And, he brought some friends with him — a lot of them.
The Monday morning after the EF2 tornado plowed through Oregon, he sent a tweet to fellow students, and approximately 25 to 30 students from Stritch and Clay high schools went into action after Kateri Catholic and Oregon schools cancelled classes.
“I saw Austin’s tweet, and a lot of us responded to it, and we actually had school cancelled so it worked out that we all met up at Stritch,” said CSCHS senior Delaney Goetz, a Northwood resident.
|Austin Pratt and Delaney Goetz (Press
photo by Ken Grosjean)
The Stritch students car-pooled to Wynn and Seaman roads, where the roofs of three contiguous homes along Seaman were destroyed, and a collection homes along Wynn near Eden Park also saw heavy damage.
Several Clay students joined them “because it is their community, too,” said Pratt, who transferred to Kateri Catholic Schools last year.
“I was surprised at the number of people who showed up,” Goetz said. “It was kind of an eye-opener to realize how many people want to give back. Like, when we have hard times, they came and supported us, so it was good to give back. It's definitely eye-opening.”
The EF4 tornado that struck the Route 795 corridor in 2010 ultimately took eight lives and destroyed Lake High School. Included among the destruction was Pratt’s family’s home in Moline.
“I remember last time, people from Clyde came out and helped us, so I was like, ‘Well, this is my community now technically so I should go out there and help them.’ I think everyone kind of had the idea that we should help, but I think was the one who just first put it out there in words and set the time and where to meet,” Pratt said.
After students spent much of Monday helping displaced families, Stritch communications coordinator and development assistant Ryan Hehr dedicated an article to them on the Kateri website.
“Reaching out to neighbors and strangers, the Stritch students sought out families in need of help,” Hehr wrote. “In some cases, students didn’t have to look very hard to find people in need of help.”
Hehr was talking about Stritch senior Peyton Gladeiux, who lived near the destruction at Seaman and Wynn.
Hehr quoted Gladieux, who said, “Three houses down was hit and their roof is gone. I want to help them so that I know they would help me if I was in that situation.”
Another damaged house belonged to the family of Stritch student Brandon Rodriguez. Yet another house lost its roof, displacing John and Tammy Kreais and their family, who were home when the tornado hit, much like Pratt’s family was before being displaced in 2010.
“The one we actually helped, the house was completely moved off the foundation, all the windows were blown out, and the front room was unleveled,” Goetz said.
By the time Pratt and his cohorts showed up, Kreais’ new roof was already taking shape, thanks to restoration carpenters.
“Yeah, they were rebuilding it right away. It was just crazy," Pratt said. “I think the only thing they said was that their cars had some damage and their grill was in their pool.
“With one family, I think most of it was water damage, so unfortunately a lot of it wasn't stuff you could hold onto. But, some of the people had stuff outside that you could have kept, but it was kind of damaged.”
Another home, just to the right of the Kreais home, was under construction when the tornado hit, but all that remained Monday was the foundation.
The students spent three hours retrieving debris. They are asking for nothing in return.
“There is this open area between all the houses that we cleaned up and piled all the stuff up, so they just had to come out and take it away,” Goetz said.
Pratt added, “A lot of it there was nothing you could really do because most of it was trees,” Obviously, we are 17-year-olds and we are not qualified to move trees, so we only did as much as we could.”
That fateful night, 2010
Pratt, whose family lives near Main Street Church, still remembers that evening of June 5, 2010, and likely will for a lifetime.
“I was in my living room, and we were down at my neighbor’s house 30 minutes before. So we’re just sitting in our living room,” Pratt recalls. “The cable didn’t cut out or anything like that, there were no sirens or anything, but at first it lifted our roof off our upstairs.
“So, the first thing we noticed was the windows started coming in. So, we really didn’t know what else to do, so we just ran to the basement. By the time I got down there, it was a lot of loud stuff. We couldn’t close the door because it was pulling the door with it. So, then, the first thing was we were kind of worried about our dogs because our whole back room is gone. So we came down, then afterward we walked upstairs and the ceiling was dipping in and what-not. So, we just evaluated that,” Pratt continued.
“Of our whole upstairs, my room was the only thing that wasn’t really messed up, so I was kind of blessed for that. Everything else had some damage. Two-by-fours were in some stuff and all that jazz.”
What’s it like listening to a tornado ripping apart your home? Everyone who has experienced it has their own version, even Pratt.
“People say it sounds like a train, but all it sounded like was stuff was hitting my house because I didn’t really notice anything — it was just loud,” Pratt said. “The house next to us was completely gone. All that was left was a toilet — that was all that was there.
“We rented a house a couple streets over, luckily, and by Homecoming my freshman year we were back in.”