Grandson relives tornado every time it stormsWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | email@example.com
Editor’s note: Toledo Free Press will follow the Blank family of Millbury for the next year as they rebuild their lives after a June 5 tornado destroyed their Main Street home.
Ed Blank’s grandson, Noah, panics during storms. Ever since the June 5 tornado, it doesn’t matter if it is thunder, rain or high winds, he gets anxious. The 9-year-old is so frightened of bad weather that if he is at school, he wants to go home. If he is at home, he wants to go to a basement.
“We take it on a day-by-day basis,” said his dad Eddie Blank. “If there is a storm, we assure him that what happened was very rare.”
But Noah’s fears are founded. He was in his grandpa’s basement the night of the tornado. He and his dad and stepmother, Michelle, had all sought refuge there because they do not have a basement.
At the time, it seemed like the safest place to be. It only took a few minutes to realize it was the worst. The house was destroyed by the tornado, with them left shaken in the basement.
“We only live a half-mile south of my dad. Had we stayed home, we would have been fine,” Eddie said.
Noah witnessed a warlike scene unfold in front of him. To this day, he still talks about the people he saw bruised, battered and crying.
“He will and we will have to deal with this for years. I feel awful for the kid to live through that and see what he saw,” Eddie said.
The third-grader has received some help through Lake Elementary School. Counselor Lauren Harrison said Noah was part of a small group counseling session she conducted specifically for students who were directly affected by the tornado. She let the students set the tone.
“I wanted the kids to take charge because in this particular group I wasn’t an expert. I didn’t go through the devastation they experienced. I wanted it to be a time for them to reflect.”
The nine members all agreed on the group name “The Survivors.” Harrison said the young Walters girl who lost her family attends Lake Elementary, but she could not reveal if she was part of the group. Noah’s grandparents lived next to the Walters.
After gathering week after week, Harrison said everyone in the group got to know each other. They talked about what they remembered from that night, their losses and what they missed the most. They talked about moving into their new houses. But at anytime, a member could decide not to share.
“I wanted them to know that it was completely normal to have these new fears — rain, the dark, storms, tornadoes — a lot were embarrassed.”
Harrison said when it rains in the morning she sometimes has to help children into the school because they do not want to get out of their cars. When there was a tornado warning in the fall, more than 80 students left because of their fears or their parents’ fears.
“They aren’t the only ones scared right now. The whole community in general [is scared]. It was scary for everybody,” she said.
One thing that helped Noah and his group was learning about tornadoes. Although they feared tornadoes, they were all interested in them, Harrison said.
“We talked about how they form; we talked about how we keep safe.”
Eddie said the family is considering additional counseling, but is thankful for the school’s help. It hasn’t helped Noah that his school is attached to the high school, which was also destroyed by the tornado.
“All the way through mid-July, if not August, if he was in the car, we couldn’t drive by the school. I would have to detour,” Eddie said. “I couldn’t drive past my dad’s house either. He would get worked up about it. We took a lot of detours to avoid him from having to relive it.”
Eddie said the best therapy is talking and helping Noah understand that every time a storm occurs “a house isn’t going to be blown away.”
But everyone in the family is still frightened after living through the tornado.
“We are quick to react. Even myself, and my wife are extremely jumpy. Back in the day, if there was a tornado watch or thunderstorm, we didn’t do anything. Now, we react or overreact,” Eddie said.