Merrill tornado survivors give thanks to community - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Merrill tornado survivors give thanks to community

On Thursday night, survivors of last year's tornado in Merrill gave thanks to the community that helped them rebuild. 

Each survivor of last year's storm has a different story, but one common theme.

"For being in a bad situation, we're very fortunate," said tornado survivor Michael Handlin.

Last April's storms destroyed 22 homes in Merrill, including Handlin's. He felt he lost everything, but he said he realized he still had the things that mattered most -- his family, friends and faith.

"We were fortunate enough with all the help we received to be able to rebuild on the exact same location where we were," said Handlin.

"I think the event of the tornado showed the strength of Merrill, the neighborhood that we live in and I just think it's a great thing to celebrate at the end, to give thanks," said Ministry Good Samaritan Health Center president Kris McGarigle, who helped organize the event.

Now just more than a year later, storm survivors are telling tales of thanks -- giving back to the community that has helped them rebuild.

"I spent many hours writing and scribbling and crumpling them back up because to put a year into four minutes, it's almost impossible," said Handlin.

"It's celebrating we are back on our feet," said McGarigle. "It's thanking all the people who came together to help out and help their neighbor even if they didn't know them. And just to celebrate how far we have come and to give thanks."

In the past year, volunteer efforts have helped homeowners recover, sharing a burden too big to handle on their own.

"Neighboring cities, neighboring states. We had calls from as far away as California and Florida, family and friends who heard about it and said what can we do from so far away to help," said Handlin.

Looking back, survivors said they're proud to be a part of a community that cares so much. They said it's made all the difference.

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