La Plata: Ten Years Later
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La Plata: Ten Years Later
La Plata, MD - 4/30/2012
By Ashley Lord
Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of the F-4 tornado that swept through the town of La Plata. Three were killed, over 100 were injured, and the destruction was rampant. The surrounding community joined together on the annual La Plata Day celebration in commemoration of the devastating event. Not only is the day marked to celebrate the town itself, but also it will forever be in remembrance of that catastrophic day.
The festival took place on the La Plata town hall lawns. It was a family friendly environment consisting of moon bounces, food stands, arts and crafts, and games for children. Organizations and institutions such as the Charles County chapter of the Humane Society, The College of Southern Maryland, Boy Scout Troops, and Civista hospital were present handing out information and goodies to passerby.
“Remarkable that the town came together after the 2002 tornado to hold an annual ‘Celebrate La Plata’ day,” Commissioner Ken Robinson (D: 1st) stated. “This goes beyond celebrating La Plata. It commemorates the anniversary of the tornado. This is the community coming together and that’s the most exciting part.”
“When you walk downtown La Plata today, you can’t even tell a storm went through here and that’s because of the efforts of so many people and the spirit of the community. Because of this, the town is bigger and better than just ten short years ago” Town of La Plata Mayor Roy Hale said.
“What has been done in the last ten years to rebuild the Town to its current state, is nothing short of remarkable,” Charles County Commissioner President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) said in a statement. “Knowing that 65% of the buildings here in downtown La Plata were heavily damaged or destroyed, as I look around at all that’s been accomplished, I stand in awe at how the community rallied together throughout that time. I think that speaks volumes about the resiliency of Charles County citizens. As neighbors, we banded together. We connected with each other at a time when one of Mother Nature’s worst situations was upon us and shared a desire to rise above the circumstances in front of us. It’s one of the most wonderful things about the human spirit, the ability to be resilient in trying times. It’s so encouraging to remember how everyone stood up, dusted themselves off, and got to work. The normal rules and concerns of life were suspended for a time in order to deal with the matter at hand. Overall, a spirit of cooperation became the way of life in the days, weeks, and months following the tornado.”
When asked to reflect on the tornado and the commemoration today, many expressed how they could not believe it was only ten years ago. Councilwoman Patti Mudd (Ward 3) easily recalled where she was that dreadful day. She was working at Civista Hospital and expressed that it turned into an atmosphere that was “quite exciting” what with all the chaos at once. She said she had no idea what to expect from the tornado, but she got her answer when she saw a roof ripped from a house out of the hospital window. She also understood the tornado’s wrath when she made it to her car in the early hours of the morning to find all her windows blown out. She now looks at the positive: “The rebuilt town is beautiful and things are still moving because we are an active community. I can’t believe it’s been ten years.”
Councilman Joe Norris of Ward Four also recounted where he was that day ten years ago: “I was standing on a corner that evening. I couldn’t see the utility pole on the street. You kind of wonder what in the world you’re going to do, but then help started pouring in, and we got ourselves together. The leadership of the town got us going; now we are back and better than ever.”
Hundreds of people showed up for the celebrations. Along with the exhibits and a carnival-like atmosphere, the students of Archbishop Neale School in La Plata did a twist dance and others joined in for the five minute. Their shirts read that it was their F-4 twist, an obvious elusion to the fact that the tornado that hit ten years earlier was an F-4. Bed races were also held along LaGrange Street, which was closed and blocked off for the celebration. Residents took the time during the festivities to talk to each other, reflecting on the memories of the tornado disaster.
Many said they could not believe ten years had passed. The sentiments all echoed each other, about how shocking the events of that day were and how remarkable the rebuilding efforts were. Ten years later, there are no signs that a tornado hit La Plata, with the exception of the memories permanently sealed in to the minds of those affected.
While the community of La Plata experienced this unexpected and devastating natural disaster, it is evident from the show of support today as well as the comments of community leaders that La Plata is a town that will bounce back from devastation through the unity of community. They have proved that from ten years ago today, they are stronger than ever.
The BayNet's Andy Marquis contributed to this report.
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