Everything Is Broken: A Tornado Hits Boyhowdytown





Up until this week, you probably hadn’t heard of Monson, Massachusetts, our little haven in the woods, a tiny rural town (population 8,000) in the no-man’s land between Springfield and Worcester, Hartford and Northampton. But Wednesday evening a tornado split our town in two, flattening homes, cars, businesses, and entire acres of trees, splashing our once-beautiful haven across the front page of every major newspaper from here to the UK and beyond. No one got hurt, but there’s a swath of destruction like a war zone from way above downtown through the dead center of everything I love. And now, two days later, most of us are still digging out of the wreckage.

We were among the lucky ones. I was home, upstream from the tornado’s path, and saw none of it firsthand. My wife and kids were in the basement of our friends’ home, with their dogs and children; we subsequently spent the next five hours trying to get to each other with only cell phone signals to guide us, a journey which involved one of us driving 200 miles to get from one town to the next, and a number of us dragging dogs and children through the wreckage of downed power lines and trees, back and forth as the skies darkened into night and the sirens wailed in the near distance.

But by morning, once we cleared the driveway with the chainsaw and could get out to walk amidst the rubble, the damage was evident: my beloved town has been terraformed.


It’s heartbreaking, and hard to find more deliberate words. The sight of the sky where there used to be trees brings tears to everyone’s eyes; the sight of dozens of houses overturned, or reduced to lumber and roofpaper, brings us to our knees. The town offices and the supermarket have had their roofs peeled away, the churches have had their steeples smashed on the street. The air is filled with the constant sound of sirens and chainsaws and generators and not much else. Graduation has been cancelled, as has so much normalcy.

Still, we’ve been counting our blessings this week in Monson. Facebook has become a lifeline, helping keep us connected and on task as we coordinate shelters and clean-up, FEMA and Red Cross and National Guard assistance where it is most needed. News crews from national and local outlets still stand on the streetcorners, helping to raise awareness. Outsiders drive through with trucks full of generators and water.

More importantly, the community has proved its worth a thousand times over. Kids who were supposed to walk the stage tonight in pomp and circumstance get heat stroke pulling personal belongings from the wreckage. The mega-volunteers we know well organize distribution centers for food and water, bedding and bins for those who have lost everything but their bodies and their hope. People hug in the streets, and thank God that everyone is okay, after all, if a bit shell-shocked.

It will be ages before life is even close to normal here. A weekend before we can drive to the other side of the wreckage. Days before we return to work. Weeks before the shredded phone and power lines are reconstructed, and electricity is returned to all. Months before the supermarket opens, and we can order pizza to our homes again. A summer before the town offices are open for business again, in the abandoned old school building up on the nearby hill. Decades, I suppose, before the tall trees regenerate, and the landscape looks the same.

But we are here, together, with love and help all around. And that is all that matters, really.

So here’s an upbeat set – nothing special, just a quick soundtrack to accompany the news. Me, I’m off to downtown, to get my hands dirty helping to start the long process of rebuilding our community. If all goes well, we’ll be back this weekend with more.




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Category: Uncategorized 37 comments »

37 Responses to “Everything Is Broken: A Tornado Hits Boyhowdytown”

  1. Stacy B

    I’m so sorry for your tragedy… this post is so beautiful, though. The photos+music+words… it paints a vivid picture of the pain, but also the gratitude.

    I’ll pray for your hometown…

  2. Simon

    Amazing that everyone escaped unhurt given the devastation, good luck to you all with the rebuilding.

  3. Maine Character

    I have no clue what to say, but that you said it all in a way that brought it all home like no newscast can.

    And so glad that everyone is safe.

  4. zip

    thank you so much for your post. i grew up in monson.. and still live not so far away.. but it’s hard to get a sense of what’s really going on… your post told me a lot… on a happier note we love your blog!!!! <3

  5. geoviki

    I’m so sorry for your great loss. I know I’m a thousand miles away but you brought home the immediacy and devastation right to my own door. But then you also add such an uplifting message – that it’s people who matter – and thank you for that. I’m praying for you and yours.

  6. rogue46

    I’m glad you & your family are alright. We have friends in your area, and this one got a little too close for comfort.

  7. Annie

    I’m so sorry that this has happened, so glad that you and your family are safe. Thinking of you at this time.

  8. Diane

    Thinking of you from up the road a piece (Franklin County). The pix and video from Monson, Brimfield, W. Springfield and Springfield are overwhelming. The larger Valley community is here to help.

    And thank you for the music.

  9. Albert

    I’m so sorry for your town’s loss, boyhowdy. We take normal life for granted and this is a good reminder not to.

  10. W

    Good luck to you all. W.

  11. michiganDAN

    I was away on a family vacation while your town was being blown away, and on the news. Your upbeat post was the right mindset because while everything is topsy-turvy in your world, the bottom line of “no one dead, no one hurt” is the summary to conclude that everything else is just stuff… and stuff can be rebuild and re-grown. Not to say things shouldn’t be missed, they will be, but the townies should never lose perspective that they are things.

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    I’m so sorry to hear about your town. Sending good wishes your way. What an awful thing.

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