Ed Kirklin and his daughter Kenzie Banta walk over the slab foundation where their house once sat on Crosswell Avenue in Brookville. Kirklin decided to move the family to Englewood and plans not to rebuild. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Photo: Chris Stewart
Photo: Chris Stewart

Vrydaghs: Stories of strength, resilience in 6 months since tornadoes

It’s hard to believe Wednesday marks 6 months since the Memorial Day tornado outbreak.

Over the past month, I’ve teamed up with Dayton Daily News reporters Josh Sweigart and Chris Stewart to walk the path of the largest tornado from that night, an EF-4. More than 4,000 homes and properties across Montgomery County were either damaged or destroyed along that 20-mile path. Our goal was to speak with the people who survived the storm and to hear how the rebuilding process is going.

The stories we’ve heard come with a variety of emotions. Josh and Chris have done an excellent job putting these stories into words in a series of articles already published the Dayton Daily News.

My part was to take these stories and present them in a three-piece TV series. Monday night was the first part of our journey as we walked through Brookville and Trotwood. Tonight, on News Center 7 at 5 p.m. you’ll see the next part, Harrison Twp. Wednesday evening will be the final part as we walk through Old North Dayton and Riverside.

To me, each town and each person has its own unique story from that night. I was blown away by the strength and resilience I witnessed as we made our way across Montgomery County, but some stories stand out more than others.

I met Ed Kirklin and his daughter in Brookville. This was the first time I heard someone openly talk about the mental scars from that night. He and his family are recovering, but have decided to sell and move away from the neighborhood they’ve called home for so many years.

While they have so many wonderful memories from their neighborhood, the visual reminders of of what happened that night still exist, making it hard for them to move on. After walking through Terrace Park, I understand completely. Homes are being rebuilt, but some still lay in shambles.

Trees, the ones still standing, are shredded. And, I even noticed a pickup truck smashed by debris appears not to have moved since Memorial Day.

Meckila Bent from Trotwood also stands out in my mind. Most people never see a tornado in a lifetime, let alone to be in the direct path of one. Not only did Bent survive the EF4 tornado on Memorial Day, but 45 years earlier she lived through the 1974 Xenia F5 Tornado. For obvious reasons, she feels blessed to still be here to tell her stories.

In tonight’s episode of Walking the Path of the Storm, we take you to Harrison Twp. This part of the path was where the greatest destruction was caused by the storm. The landscape has been completely changed. Nearly 400 trees were ripped apart by the storm, and many of them were dated to be more than 200 years old. I talked to two women who’ve made the decision to fix up their homes and stay, all while accepting the new scenery that surrounds them.

Finally, Wednesday night our journey continues through Old North Dayton and Riverside. Stories of a food desert and post-traumatic stress are heartbreaking.

If you or someone you know is in need of help or guidance after being impacted by the Memorial Day tornadoes, all you have to do is dial 2-1-1. This is a free hotline provided by the United Way that will connect survivors to special operators who can complete an assessment and offer one-on-one management assistance. The operators are available on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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