“You can fix a building, but emotional scars remain”-Mayor Rybak On Tornado Recovery

At Lucy Laney Elementary School in North Minneapolis to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the devastating tornado, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak reflected that fixing a building is easy compared to healing someone’s emotional scars following a traumatic event.

“I just met a boy who was in a car near where someone died,” the Mayor shared. “And that kid doesn’t just suddenly wake up the next morning and go ‘hey, everything’s cool’. These things don’t go away, and I think the idea of rebuilding needs to happen on a lot of levels.”

“We have to keep doing the houses and businesses. We’ve done thousands and we’ll have to do more. But we also have to focus on the huge amount of pain that people carry around every day, but also the huge amount of renewed confidence that people have.”

Recalling the horrors of a year ago

After the tornado struck the Twin Cities’ most hard luck neighborhood on May 22, 2011, Rybak walked through the streets horrified because he assumed that all of the houses with trees fallen on them were filled with people who had died. “We lost two wonderful people: we could have lost many more.”

Rybak attended a series of events throughout North Minneapolis yesterday to commemorate the tornado anniversary. He arrived at Lucy Laney Elementary just after the students and staff released 200 blue balloons into the air to symbolize the release of pain and anxiety. He said he’d never seen that many balloons over his city before, but a year ago he did take a helicopter ride over the damaged neighborhood. What he saw put his heart at his toes.

The Mayor recalled what may have been his most tense moment trying to manage the response following the disaster: “At a recovery center a couple days after the tornado, we were swamped with people, the computer system wasn’t working, there was a lot of foment in the line. I finally just stood up on a picnic table and said, ‘Look we’re at a pretty critical stage here. As a mayor I can either call in a bunch of police to do this or the north side can police the north side.’ People got really cool at that point. The line suddenly got much better.”

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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