The house would have provided shade on the dirt road had it not been for the tornado that ripped the top story off two days before. I didn’t know what to think.
As we walked on May 24, Jessica Vrettos, Shannon Farrell and I had seen a few smaller things that told the tale of the storms that devastated northern Colorado May 22: mangled irrigation sprayers turned over with their wheels in the air, huge swaths of destroyed crop land and uprooted trees.
But I thought it was only Windsor that had seen damage, not realizing that the $150 million of damage caused by the tornadoes was widespread throughout Weld County.
Vrettos and Farrell, CSU alumni, had walked north from New Mexico on a fundraising trip to raise money to build a house for a New Orleans family displaced by Hurricane Katrina. I was with them to write about their charity effort.
And when the tornadoes hit two days before I was to walk with Vrettos and Farrell, I didn’t realize we would be walking right by much of the damage the Collegian would report on when it resumed printing.
Vrettos, Farrell and I walked past the house and got about 100 yards down the road when John Hussar and his partner, both in their 50s, pulled up in a maroon pickup and got out to survey the damage. It was the second time Hussar, who is the landlord of the house, had visited his property since the storm.
The first time, he found one of his horses three miles away and another with a nine-inch piece of wood sticking out of its chest.
Huge trees were lying on their sides with long, thick roots pointing toward the sky. Jagged ends of two-by-fours stuck out of the second floor — now the roof of the house — like broken teeth.
Hussar told us they would probably bulldoze the house instead of trying to rebuild it after Farrell offered a hand in the repair process. The family that rented the lodging from him would have to find a new home.
Hussar and many others had lost property and homes. I would go home that night to curl up in my own bed with the financial and logistical worries that have always permeated my head, but in comparison, my worries seemed menial.
At the end of the 14-mile road we walked that day, Farrell and I got in her van, and she gave me a ride back to Fort Collins through Windsor. It was there that the real gravity of the situation became evident.
The city was filled with repair crews that normally work to fix the occasional downed power line or broken water main. But that day, they banded together to fix an entire community — a project that will prove to be ongoing for months.
The message from the surrounding communities to tornado victims was overwhelming.
The day after the storms hit, nearly 2,000 volunteers showed up in the town to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Indeed, at many points between then and now, there were too many volunteers, including students, for charity organizations to provide with work.
And when Vrettos, Farrell and I walked past the ravaged house that Saturday, they put themselves out there, offering to gather people to help Hussar on top of their already ambitious charity effort.
Hopefully the efforts from the community and CSU keep coming, as, while we all have our issues, tornado damage isn’t one of them.
Aaron Hedge is a junior English major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.