(COAL CITY, IL) – Joe and Sue Blaine were having the time of their life celebrating their son’s wedding in Cancun. The next day—on June 22—a neighbor back home in Coal City sent photos and a text message: “It looks a lot worse than the pictures.”
The Blaines took the first flight they could get out of Mexico. Their usually quiet neighborhood looked like a bomb went off. Tree limbs and debris were scattered on the street. Joe’s truck was flipped on the side and landed in the front yard. Their house, where the couple raised their two sons, no longer had a roof.
“I had two life-changing events with two extremes: My son got married and my house was destroyed,” said Sue.
Enter the Red Cross disaster relief team that arrived to check on families after the storm to see how they were coping and what help they needed.
Joe and Sue invited us in their home to survey the damage. Sue stopped to wipe her feet on the welcome mat stepping over a large hose pumping water out of the hallway.
“I don’t know why I keep doing that,” she laughed. “Habit, I guess.” She picked up a broken flower pot on the floor in the living room. “I don’t know who this belongs to.”
In the back of the house where the family gathers to watch TV at night was a large wooden fence post that railroaded through the glass door. If the Blaines were home the night of the storm, they could have been seriously hurt.
Yet, there were some things the storm didn’t touch – Sue’s wedding china in the dining room and photos of her sons’ graduation
pictures from Coal City High School. The storm even blew over the “trophy room” in the garage where wooden replicas of the boys’ baseball jerseys, team photos, and White Sox memorabilia live on the wall.
Back outside a neighbor dragged over a long, twisted piece of metal that landed in the Blaine’s backyard – a bleacher from the high school ball field a few blocks away that the proud parents likely a sat on a few years ago to cheer their sons to victory.
The road to recovery isn’t easy. It’s going to take longer than a baseball season for the families of Coal City, like the Blaines, to claim victory over this storm, but there’s a lot of teamwork at play.
“The community has our support with the help of our many partnering agencies, we’re throwing all our resources at this disaster to give people the care and comfort they need,” said Ken Cozzi, Executive Director, American Red Cross of the Southwest Suburbs.
NEED HELP? If you’ve been affected the Northern Illinois Tornadoes and Storms call our Red Cross call center 312-729-6250.
GIVE HELP After a disaster, financial donations are the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most. If you would like to help those affected by disasters like the recent Illinois tornado outbreak, please visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.
Story By: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois
Photos By: dirkfletcher.com