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For this survivor, it's back to work helping people

Date: 6/22/2011

June 22, 2011

By Lori Szepelak


SPRINGFIELD — Christine Hess on Wayside Street feels she had "an angel on our roof" the afternoon of June 1 when a tornado ripped through her neighborhood.

It was exactly two weeks later that Hess took Reminder Publications on a tour of her street, explaining she had just returned home from her job as a visiting nurse with Mercy Home Care on June 1 when she heard the news on television of a tornado watch.

"When my husband, mother-in-law and I looked out the window we saw the funnel in the distance and only had a few seconds to react," she recalled.

Their first thought was to retreat to the basement, however, Katherine Hess, 89, was unable to traverse the stairs so Christine and Ralph Hess braced themselves to protect Katherine and sought shelter in their living room.

"Within seconds we heard the smashing glass, trees snapping and flying debris, it was so loud," she said. "It sounded like a train or airplane overhead."

Almost as quickly as the tornado came, it then became quiet, added Hess.

For Hess and her family, they feel "blessed" because their home sustained minor damage compared to some of their neighbors whose homes were condemned just a few feet away.

"We have the only maple tree left standing," she said, noting that their American flag had been torn from the front of their house and now hangs from the tree that weathered the tornado.

Hess added that when they felt safe to open their door to check out the damage, neighbors slowly did the same, and once outside, it was an "eerie quiet" with everyone looking at the destruction that was beyond belief.

"Since the tornado struck, it has been neighbors helping neighbors," Hess said. "The city's response has also been tremendous."

Hess noted that almost immediately, she and her neighbors were knocking on doors to see if anyone needed help, especially in light of the fact she was a seasoned nurse who was ready to administer first aid.

Hess cited the many volunteers from the Red Cross and local churches, as well as police and firefighters, who answered the call to help others who lost so much. For some, including Hess' neighbor next door who is still "so traumatized" she hasn't returned to her home — her "For Sale" sign still sits intact on the front lawn.

Since Hess and her family were one of the fortunate ones who sustained minor damage to their 65-year-old home and property, she was soon back in her car after having to have the blown-out glass replaced, traversing the streets of Springfield and beyond, to see her patients who were glad to see her car pull up once again in front of their homes.

For the latest information on Springfield Tornado Recovery Resources, visit The federal government has declared Hampden and Worcester counties as major federal disaster areas, ensuring storm-related costs for affected communities, nonprofit groups and state agencies will benefit from funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

For more information on federal assistance, visit , or call 800-621-FEMA, or 800-621-3362. The TTY line number for the hearing impaired is 800-462-7585. Individuals interested in volunteering their time for clean-up or to donate supplies can visit FEMA's National Donation's Management System's Web site, .

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