Putting Your Life On The Line
Heroes emerge during rare tornado event
Can you imagine driving toward this tornado instead of running to safety? That’s what Fire Marshal Kory Koehlmoos did.
Damaged was the town tornado siren. If the residents were to have any warning at all, Kory would have to turn it on himself. He drove right toward the twin tornado, away from safety, to give people a fighting chance.
Kory was not the only hero that day. The president of the local bank risked his life for his work family, securing their safety at the sake of his own. “I accepted the odds that I was not going to survive,” said Gene Willers.
Although only one tornado went down Main Street in Pilger, the twin funnels cleared everything in their path. Businesses, 73 homes, a school, farmland and twenty grain bins became flying shrapnel and deadly debris.
The storm received national attention by meteorologists because of the rarity of twin tornadoes. They dubbed Pilger, “A Town too Tough to Die.” News outlets from across the nation lined the highway capturing the aftermath of the storm and the resilience of the community.
What they saw was 16,000 volunteers from all 50 states helping in any way they could and locals taking in their neighbors who lost everything. In this part of Nebraska, agriculture is the main source of revenue for residents. Volunteers and neighbors walked the farm fields to pick up bits of metal - even small pieces of debris can ruin a combine.
“There were many volunteers that showed up to assist with cleanup after the tornado. Without their help we couldn’t have moved forward as fast,” said Kim Neiman, Pilger Village Clerk.
Pilger and the surrounding communities worked hard even after all the volunteers left. Some of the businesses on Main Street in Pilger have brand new buildings and more continue to come.
The storm system destroyed The Wisner-Pilger School. Teachers lost their classroom and years’ worth of books and other teaching materials. Computers, projectors, and other electronics were never found. State Farm was able to assist in funding new classroom materials and playground equipment for the school district.
When, not if…
It is often said, it isn’t if disaster is going to strike, it’s when.
“You never think a tornado is going to hit your town, but it can happen anywhere," shared Kory.
Be prepared. Know the warning signs of a tornado.