One year later: The truck

One year later: The truck

GIFFORD — Samantha Smith remembers the truck. It was only about a hundred steps from where her house was destroyed.

After the tornado hit, the village dump truck ended up near the debris site on the east edge of town. All the glass was broken out, the headlights were busted, it was dented, beaten and covered in earth. The hood had been ripped away, exposing what was inside.

Kind of like the rest of the town.

It hadn't been there long before someone came by and zip-tied a tattered American flag to its front — a symbol of resilience surrounded by remnants of the town and its residents' homes that had been lost.

"It just showed up," Smith said of the flag.

The flag she found tucked under her car's windshield wiper after the storm just showed up, too. She was able to find the owner of a lot of the belongings that had blown into her yard, but she held onto the flag. It flew in front of her family's destroyed home while she waited to rebuild.

"There were a lot of flags flying in town," Smith said.

Before long, Police Chief Sean Weary's squad car — a brand-new SUV that was destroyed in the storm — ended up at the dump site next to the truck. Smith kept a picture of the two incapacitated village vehicles right next to each other.

The dump truck stayed several months. Weary said the insurance company eventually came and took it away — probably never to be in service again.

But maybe it served its most important purpose as that symbol of resiliency in its last few months at the dump site while the town rebuilt.

Smith now lives in a brand-new home, which was built in the same footprint as the home her family lost in the storm. And she has a new neighbor: Pat Whitaker, who is in a new home after hers was destroyed by the tornado. The two have come to know each other well following the tornado, and that's a pretty common story in Gifford now.

"I've met so many people in town," Smith said.

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