UNION TOWNSHIP — Memorial Day began like any other holiday for Union Township resident Patrick Bilbrey and his family. As evening fell and tornado warnings began to sound, their lives were changed.
The Bilbrey family, including Patrick, his wife, Carrie, and their two children, Ethan, 10, and Erin, 8, found themselves taking cover as a tornado roared through their home, destroying most of the living area. Fortunately, the destructive power of the tornado, later confirmed by the National Weather Service to be an EF-2, stopped its destruction of their home about 15 feet from where the family was sheltered.
As the storm moved on, Bilbrey and his family emerged to find most of their home lying in ruins, including several vehicles, and many of their possessions. Only the bedrooms and bathroom were left relatively intact.
Of immediate concern to the family was an elderly neighbor who suffered injuries from the storm. Bilbrey called Miami County 911 and brought the resident into what was left of his home. Due to downed trees and power lines, first responders were initially unable to reach the victim, but managed to reach her on a Gator that took her back out to the road where she could be attended to by EMS.
In the days following the tornado, Bilbrey is overwhelmed by the outpouring support from the community.
“There is nothing better than the community coming together,” Bilbrey said. “People you’ve never met, they’re just coming out and helping. They are just there for each other. It is just an outpouring of people wanting to help.”
“Every day somebody was bringing over something,” Bilbrey continued. “Every day, someone was grilling out at their house, bringing hot dogs and hamburgers, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We never even knew them and they just stopped on the road and said ‘are you guys hungry?’ and they would bring us food.
Similar sentiments were expressed by State Route 55 resident Tammy Gabbard, whose trailer sustained damage from the storm. Gabbard was overwhelmed at the community support as they work to clean up storm damage.
“It has just been awesome,” said Gabbard, speaking about the support. “I can’t believe the overwhelming warmth (of people they have never met.)”
As Gabbard was speaking, a pickup truck made its way down the street. In the bed was a full pallet of bottled water. As the truck sopped among the residents and volunteers who were working, Kirsten Fetters and Kate York emerged from the cab. The pair, who live in the Laura/Arcanum area, had purchased the pallet of water and were driving around the hard-hit areas, handing out cases of water to anyone who needed it.
As clean-up from Monday’s devastating tornado outbreak continues, it is apparent that sometimes, it takes a disaster to bring out the very best in a community.
As the Bilbrey family ponders their future, Carrie Bilbrey summed up their outlook on their circumstances with one final comment, “We have us.”
Reach Mike Ullery at firstname.lastname@example.org
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