EDITOR’S NOTE: Dayton Daily News reporters Chris Stewart and Josh Sweigart — joined at times by Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs — are traveling the length of the largest of the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes. It tore a path across Montgomery County, impacting thousands of homes and businesses. We are gathering people’s stories and investigating obstacles to recovery. This story is part of that coverage. Go here for the full project.
One cluster of homes many people didn’t know existed before the Memorial Day tornadoes is perched above the Stillwater River on Lofty Oaks Lane in Harrison Twp. Trees once shielded their visibility from Shoup Mill Road; now they are conspicuous.
Allison Saldivar’s brother owns one of these houses and she has lived there for two years. Her home has three floors of windows facing the river, with a balcony on every floor. They now overlook a mangled carpet of twisted stumps and brush. Among the detritus appears to be a refrigerator.
“I’d like it cleaned up because it screams death to me,” she said.
Saldivar was sick in bed when the storm hit. She barely understood what was going on. She grabbed her dog, a Maltese named Max, and a pillow and jumped in the bathtub.
“It’s the loudest thing I’ve heard in my life. We were in the tub and you could hear the pipes banging against each other and water sucking through them. I didn’t recognize that sound until like two days later. I was at my parents’ house and their washing machine cleared out the water, and I heard it. I started sweating and getting nervous because of that sound replaying.”
She thought she might die when the tornado hit. It was a traumatic experience that she is still working through. But it was too much for Max, she said. He died within a week of the storm.
“I lost my home and my dog within a week,” she said.
Saldivar was displaced for a couple of months, but she’s back in the home now while repairs continue. Insurance has been a pain, she said. But instead of dwelling on everything she lost, she said she wants to focus on the positive. She has thrown native wildflower seeds down along the riverbank.
“My view has changed a lot at night and in the morning,” she said. “At night it sparkles because you can see the city a little bit. And in the morning, you can see the sun rise a lot more than you used to. So I try to take a moment and appreciate the things I didn’t have before.”
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