Walking up the stairs, his small feet echo in the empty house.
“The tornado hit and took the whole entire roof off,” he said walking into what was his bedroom.
Nine-year-old Blaze Thomas decided to take us on a tour of his home as clean up efforts continued on Friday.
“Now, if you reach — you can reach and feel the air,” he said, pointing to the area where the roof used to be.
His two-story home is among the dozens damaged in by an EF-2 tornado in Van Buren County.
“I did not like the tornado — I hated it don’t even like my house right now, ” he said. “It’s a disaster. It’s like a nightmare.”
But taking a walk around Botkinburg Foursquare Church, he gives credit to the crowds coming it to offer aid.
“There’s a 100 people here all helping out,” he said. “They had chainsaws. Trees were everywhere, but now they got the trees cut, and they’re burning them.”
volunteers on the ground are giving it their best effort, they say, from serving up something cold to getting hot fires burning to eliminate debris.
“I think that’s what everybody’s doing,” said Darrell Black, a volunteer who lives in Scotland. “Everybody’s just trying to do what they can.”
From big jobs to small gestures, everyone pitches in to patch things up.
“I’m helping by picking up sticks,” Blaze said. “I take them over to the burn pile and make sure they’re on fire.”
“It all adds up to the big picture, ” Black said. “It all centers around people caring about each other.”
Still, 10 miles down the road more rural places like the Walnut Grove community are in need of help to handle the disaster.
“It’s a very big mess,” said Arline Bonds. “It’s going to take a long time to clean up.”
So far, the small community has had to band together, unsure if others are aware of the damage they’re dealing with.
“We’re mainly having to rely on each other,” Bonds said. “We could use help from people with chainsaws, people with building materials.”
“It’s sort of the out of sight out of mind thing with some of these places,” Black said. “I live in Scotland, so I’ve driven across the county and seen it. These places may be more removed from the beaten path but the problems are just as big and real as they are here in Botkinburg.”
Putting lives like Blaze’s and Bonds’ back together is going to take a long time, but eventually they hope they’ll all be able to return to something close to normal.