“After that, we moved everybody into the centermost part of the building,” Stremble said. “It was ...” He stops. Coming across the churned-up lawn is Stremble’s lost bio-med technician. His badge identifies him as Curtis Eastwood, a three-and-a-half-year center employee. They grin at one another, momentarily at a loss for words.
“You,” exclaims Stremble, seizing Eastwood’s hand and shaking it. “Man, that’s — Hell, I been telling people about you. It’s so good to see you, man, it really is.”
“Same here,” Eastwood said. “I’m just trying to find some familiar faces out here today.”
Eastwood was returning from joint surgery on the day of the storm, he said. He watched the approaching tornado through a window, snapping a picture of it.
“I waited there at the window, watching everything crash through the front doors,” Eastwood said. “It was such a hard rush, the wind blowing through here like a wind tunnel, everything getting crushed, everything banging.”
When he was blown out through the cafeteria doors, he sought refuge in a corner until the winds died down. He was shaken, but uninjured.
“My office was right up here,” Eastwood said, indicating an empty window with a shattered pane. “It’s pretty sad, but then you see that some other people have lost a lot more. A lot of people lost their lives. Just knowing the scope of the thing is pretty tough. But we do need to move on. We need to rebuild and put things back together.”
Eastwood begins to walk across the lawn toward the tent where commemorative speeches will be held. He seems both grave and hopeful.
“This is too much of a scar,” Eastwood said, glancing toward a yellow excavator preparing to begin demolition. “This needs to happen. We need something fresh and new.”