The following story is courtesy of WGGB-TV, Springfield, Mass., and commemorates the tornado which struck the Village Green Campground near Brimfield, Mass., a year ago.
A Brimfield campground was right in the path of the tornado.
“We watched it, it came around the corner and we ran,” said Kate Twarowski, daughter of the campground’s owners.
After hitting Monson, the tornado barreled on, ravaging the town of Brimfield.
“It just went completely silent, no birds, no wind the flag dropped, and we were like oh boy this is different,” Twarowski adds.
“Then we heard that roar everyone was talking about. That’s not a roar we’ve ever heard before. This was different,” said Meg Twarowski.
And then it was as if time stood still.
“At 5:09, according to all our broken clocks, it hit here, and our life changed,” said Meg.
The tornado damaged roughly 10 percent of the homes in Brimfield, including part of Town Hall.
It caused widespread destruction in the state forest.
It also ruined much of the Village Green Family Campground.
The 100-acre forest once a secluded oasis is now only a shadow of what it once was.
“All of the trees were down. It was hard to recognize the landscape of the whole place,” Meg said.
The storm destroyed 95 of the 97 trailers on site, leaving $1.75 million worth of damage
“It was just shock you come out and it’s just everything you have was in the air is now on the ground everything’s green and you can’t make heads or tails of anything,” she added.
But it wasn’t just one tornado, a second one barreled through just as search and rescue efforts got underway.
“Some of the the people weren’t leaving their victims so they were hunkering down. They didn’t care, they didn’t care that a tornado was coming; they stood there and got us to safety.”
One of the campers brought to safety was Rick Reim. He and his longtime girlfriend, Virginia Darlow, also known as Ginger were staying at the Village Green for the summer.
They were putting away groceries when the storm hit.
“I didn’t even get a chance to think; something just told me, we’re in trouble, hide,” said Rick.
“I grabbed my girl and threw her in the shower. I closed the door and as soon as I closed the door, the Winnebago shook once, tipped on its side. I was just lying on top of her now, holding onto her and then I got knocked out. It was a nightmare that just happened so fast.”
“When the person told me not to try to stand up, I said we’ve got to find Ginger, I don’t know where Ginger is; she was in my arms. The dog all of a sudden mysteriously appears and starts barking viciously. I told them to follow her, follow her. That’s Ginger’s dog; he’ll maybe lead you to where Ginger is.”
Sure enough, Ginger was still inside the Winnebago. It took them 15 to 20 minutes to climb in there to feel her pulse but it was too late.
“It was a tragic way to lose somebody. It’s one thing about losing somebody but to have them ripped out of your arms, while you were trying to hold on to her for dear life.”
A life and a love lost too soon.
“She was kind and sweet. She wouldn’t step on an ant,” said Rick.
But loss soon turned into hope as the hours and days passed.
“People that were camping here … a lot of them just got out and got in trailers and parked them in a different area,” said Twarowski.
“I said, ‘OK I’ve got my rake. Let’s go. I’ve got a chainsaw. Let’s use the chipper. We’ve got a little cleanup here to do let’s go.”’
“Neighbors, people driving by on the road even though they couldn’t go anywhere they didn’t care, they just came and wanted to help,” said Rick.
Neighbors and strangers becoming life long friends.
“We have a lot more friends that’s really nice, we’ve met people from all over the country that still keep in contact with us, how are you doing what do you need,” said Lester Twarowski.
“When you make friends in a situation like this, they are real keepers. Because they’re picking up garbage they’re picking up trash and they’re working for nothing.”
A Year Later
A year later, the focus is not on what was lost, but on what remains and what will grow in the future.
“I didn’t suffer half as bad as most of the people in town,” said Lester.
“Our house was still standing. You drive down the street and see someone’s house in the swamp.”
“But how do you replace pictures, how do you replace the toys in the attic, how do you replace the wedding dress tucked away hoping your daughter would wear. That’s what is more devastating the environment here trees are growing back, they’ll grow back.”
And hopefully provide memories for a whole new generation of campers.
“You look around and are like I remember doing this when I was little I can’t do that anymore I used to climb trees and they’re gone,” said Kate.
There are no trees where you can be like talk to your kids and say yea I used to climb that same tree you’re climbing now.