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Strong community continues to grow 8 years after deadly tornado

Remembering those lost in Washington as the city continues to heal and grow.
Photo of the Washington Tornado.
Photo of the Washington Tornado.(Kris Lancaster)
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 5:04 PM CST
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - November 17th, 2013 will forever be remembered in the City of Washington. In the late morning of that day, a large and violent tornado moved through Washington and in the process leveled multiple communities. The EF-4 tornado caused killed three people and injured over one hundred others.

Eight years later the sense of community is as strong as ever and the aftermath of that day still sits in the minds of those who witnessed the storm and were helping in the aftermath.

“I think what helped us, we were a great community prior to the disaster we experience. I think that helped us survive.” Said, Mayor Gary Manier of the City of Washington. He was on the ground in the immediate aftermath and remembers leaving the shelter he was taking at Sunnyland Christian Church and not recognizing his surroundings at all.

Outreach from across the country began to move into the Washington area. Musicians like Styx and REO Speedwagon played benefit concerts. A campaign was created and thousands of orange shirts with “#WashingtonStrong” were sold to help the community.

Mayor Manier recalls asking some media members from Chicago and Peoria why they were still there weeks after the storm, they told him that this was an important story and they wanted to get the word out.

Washington has largely rebuilt in the last eight years and continues to grow in size according to census data.

“Well, I think it brought even closer together because you know, those days where you go to the mailbox or you’re out mowing your yard, you may talk to your neighbor but the neighbor two doors down and you might not know their name or how many kids they have or what their kids’ names are. But once that tornado hit, people started getting back into the community in their streets and they had block parties.” Said, Mayor Manier.

Joey Davidson took the tornado head-on that fateful day in November. His house was leveled on Devonshire Road and he was left with a broken back, ribs, and clavicle. In the aftermath of the storm, he dug his family out of the rubble and was in shock. He looked around and specifically remembers a lawnmower that didn’t belong to him on his property. He looked out at what was the community he had spent less than a year in.

Joey’s rebuilding process took that next year, deciding to stay right where he was. His family celebrated Christmas in the house they built in the aftermath. He said he has learned to help his neighbors more than he would have.

“That definitely brings people together when you have that commonality of going through such a traumatic event for sure they really embraced each other and now you know we’re checking on neighbors. You know, help people a little more than you did.” Said, Davidson.

Eight years later, this community is truly #WashingtonStrong.

Written in memory of the three lives lost on November 17, 2013.

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