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Huron Farms Residents Come Together After Dexter Tornado

A Dexter resident shares what her neighborhood looked like after the storm.

I don't know what to say.

As a journalist since graduating college in 1995, I have been around a lot of disasters. A plane crash into a row of condominiums. A train derailment. House fires, apartment fires, floods. In order to be a good journalist, you have to keep calm, cool and a little bit detached.

But it's so much harder to do when the disaster hits your home. I've lived in Orchard River Hills and Huron Farms for the past 10 years, and count many of my neighbors as my closest friends. The tornado that hit our neighborhood Thursday flattened several homes, destroyed maybe two dozen and severely damaged countless more.

My house and my family are fine. And I am so relieved to say that, at least for the moment, it appears everyone in our neighborhood walked away unharmed. No one was injured, but we have a long road of rebuilding to do.

Walking around, seeing windows shattered in your friend's homes, peering into people's closets from the street, watching people walk up their living room stairs as if they were on some bizarre open-air movie set, was surreal.

Every year at Halloween, Huron Farms and Orchard River Hills (two adjoining neighborhoods constructed by different builders) become a madhouse of activity. People from all over Dexter drive in, lured in by our safe sidewalks, homes that are close enough to each other to make trick-or-treating a breeze, and the open, welcoming attitude that has made living here so genuinely enjoyable.

The neighborhood last night felt sort of the similar. Except instead of hay rides and cute kids, there was disaster everywhere.

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That loving attitude was still there. Pete Potsos, a neighborhood resident, was walking around with a wrench in his hand, turning off the gas in homes that had been hardest hit. He didn't wait to be asked or wait for the police or firemen to do it -- he knew what needed to be done, and took care of it.

"I'm a Boy Scout," he said with a shrug. "I guess that's why."

There were a lot of hugs. A lot of tears. A lot of people checking in on friends. My eight-year-old son's best friend, Katie, came by as soon as she could to make sure he was OK. As the firemen went around checking on homes, tying yellow caution tape around doorknobs of homes that checked out OK, friends went around also touching base. People touched each other on the elbow or shoulder. "Are you guys OK?" "Everyone safe?" "What can I do for you?"

I found Saja Leier, one of my dearest friends, standing in the road. The windows in her house and her car were shattered. Her bedroom curtains were flapping in the wind. We hugged in the middle of the street for a long time -- thankfully she let me hang on to her long enough so I could keep myself from bursting into tears.

When the tornado hit, she was in the basement with her two daughters. "I felt it in my ears, there was this suction that just went pop," she said.

She and her husband Mike were planning to take the girls to a hotel, because the house is uninhabitable. As we walked around the house, she noticed (with the eye of someone who would make a good reporter) a plastic toy camel laying in the grass.

It's a mess. All of it. One huge, overwhelming mess.

"What do I do now," Saja said. "I mean, really. What do I do?"

I don't have the answer to that. There's no good reason why our neighborhood got hit, or why her house was hit and others stayed standing. But I do know that those affected won't be going through this alone. We may not be family, but we're a community. A pretty damn good one, too. We'll work it out.

Together.

Sharon Carty reports on the auto industry for The Huffington Post and is a resident of Dexter.

Dawn Albrecht-Parys March 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM
As a former resident of Chelsea and one who knows the Dexter area very well, I am so very thankful that every resident is "o.k." I know so well the stunned disbelief that you all are going through, for in 2004 I survived the "wrath" of Hurricane Charlie, a Catagory 5 storm which devasted not only my home, but the entire town of Punta Gorda, Florida as well. I know what an utterly sureal feeling it is to emerge from the rubble only to see homes with no walls or roofs, boats and cars that became weapons as they hurled through the air, furniture sucked through rooftops, landing many miles away, and worst of all, the shattered foundations of homes that mere hours before had had families residing in them. And yes, we had deaths.....26 people lost their lives. If I can share some words of comfort which helped me greatly in the aftermath of that traumatic event, they are as follows; despite the horror and losses you have all endured, please remember that everything you lost can be replaced...it's only "stuff." What's irreplacable are those in your lives whom you love the most, your family and your friends, they are priceless. My very warmest and best wishes. Dawn Albrecht-Parys
Angela LaMons March 18, 2012 at 08:01 AM
Our family is relieved, to say the least, that everyone survived. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost their homes, along with the entire community. Such a horrible shock. Angela, Jason, Tatiana and Xander LaMons
Mary Marshall March 21, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Sharon, your beautiful pieces help us all understand the emotion that is our community responsibility to support in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you for being one of the voices of the neighborhood residents. We all want to support in the most appropriate manner, but we need to hear how best to support the longer term needs. Keep talking to us!
Goralczyk Family March 25, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Way to go, Pete! Our thoughts and prayers are for your family and neighbors. Regards, The Goralczyk Family in West Bloomfield
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