KIRKLAND – Shannon Lee, a 15-year resident of Fairdale, said her home experienced minor damage during the 2015 EF4 tornado that caused nearly $8 million in damage, demolished dozens of homes and claimed the lives of 67-year old Geraldine Schultz and 69-year old Jacqueline Klosa.
But she said with the tragedy her neighbors experienced came the blessing of gaining close-knit relationships with members of her community as they all sought to rebuild their lives after the deadly storm.
Kirkland Village President Les Bellah, Lee's father, said that in the two years since the tornado, people's attitudes in the Franklin Township community have done nothing put positively improve.
“The people in Fairdale are just 100 percent positive because they have a second chance at a new town,” Bellah said. “It's absolutely remarkable to see what's happened over the past two years and how teardrops have turned into smiles. People understand what happened and what they need to do to stay positive and they're really taking care of business.”
In response to the tornado's devastating toll on Fairdale, more than $1 million was raised in donations and grants for relief efforts by the DeKalb County Long-Term Recovery Corp., a voluntary nonprofit organization that began weeks after the tornado struck.
Bellah said that the community's infrastructure, including the septic system, streets and sidewalk repair, has been pretty well taken care of.
“Most of the septic systems were closing to failing before and with county and state rulings, new systems couldn't be built without county rezoning,” Bellah said. “There was also no internet system there, which is pretty essential in the scope of things.”
Bellah added that one of the new projects the community is working on is a shelter house and that the tornado was able to aid in new development.
“Fairdale was pretty much going to die on the vine,” he said. “But a lot of bad things were purged and we were able to build on smaller lots.”
Lee added that there still are some buildings that need to be torn down, but it's great to see kids playing in parks again and positive morale.
“The flowers are blooming and the trees are budding,” Lee said. “Everything that's been done for us has been wonderful and we're a great little neighborhood out here.”