Henryville students set to return to class in wake of devastating tornado

Jake Miller

4:22 PM CDT, August 6, 2012

Henryville, Ind.


Five months after a devastating tornado roared through Henryville, students are getting ready to return to class.

The powerful EF-4 tornado blew through on March 2, decimating homes and businesses. Nearly half the elementary and junior/senior high school building was destroyed, forcing students to finish the school year in temporary facilities as crews worked to rebuild.

Five months later, the work is nearly finished, and on Tuesday, 1,200 students, staff and teachers will return to a newly restored school building. For teachers like Melva Carter, it will mark a first day of school unlike any other.

“Life goes on and you just keep helping people and getting everybody through it,” Carter said. “It's going to be okay."

This will be the 43rd “first day of school” for Carter, who admitted she still had some preparations to make.

“I will probably not leave here until ten o’clock tonight,” she said.

For Assistant Superintendent John Reed of West Clark Schools, the opening comes much sooner than anticipated.

“Right after the tornado hit I was thinking like a year, more like a year and a half, so it’s pretty phenomenal to be at this point five months later,” Reed said. “Miracles happen. I think the message we want to send to our kids is through your faith and supporting each other, you can get through just about anything.”

The smell of fresh paint still lingered Monday in the black and gold hallway of the high school where pictures of the Hornets' past hung on redone walls. Some still can’t believe how quickly the rebuilding work progressed.

“They’ve worked 24/7, so it’s just amazing how we’ve been able to get back in the building,” said teacher Debbie Downing. “There’s a few little things that have to be finished up, but all and all it’s pretty good. It’s just kind of neat to be back home again.”

Those who talked to Fox59 said Henryville wouldn’t be getting back on its feet without the help of thousands of people across the country who donated time and resources to rebuild.

“You think you go through this devastation and you’d be down on the world, but we’re truly blessed,” Carter said.