One Year After Storm, a Void in North Minneapolis

DeWayne Thornton remained in his house on the 3000 block of Logan Avenue, just south of Lowry, even after last year’s May 22 tornado demolished the garage, tore off part of his roof and damaged two rear bedrooms. The City of Minneapolis condemned the building though inspectors deemed it structurally sound, and Thornton refused to move his girlfriend and three children to an overcrowded shelter.

But many of his neighbors and fellow North Minneapolis residents didn’t stay put. Some left for Brooklyn Center or other parts of the Twin Cities. Others left Minnesota entirely and are living day-to-day in shelters on the South Side of Chicago and other cities. Minneapolis has no record of how many residents left the hard-pressed neighborhood following the tornado.

“The neighborhood is totally different,” says Thornton as he looks down the block, at empty spaces, skeletons of trees and blue tarps that still flutter in place of roofs. “Lots of people are gone from the neighborhood. I don’t know what they did with them or where they went.”

Neighborhood changing
Thornton notes that the makeup of his block has become more diverse, as he sees white, Mexican and Chinese families. On Saturday, the City of Minneapolis and Habitat for Humanity held a block party here, at which Mayor R.T. Rybak and other dignitaries spoke.

Despite the void around him and lack of shade, Thornton has reason to be optimistic. He recently started a “poor man’s moving company”. The squat and powerfully built 41-year-old San Diego native owns a truck, and for a flat rate of $250 or less he’ll clean out people’s garages, basements or estates.

“Everybody has to move, and this is a place where people move every year,” says Thornton, who tired of working long days and nights as a a forklift driver at King Solutions in the Minneapolis suburb of Dayton.

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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