‘Normal’ slowly returning for former area residents following tornado


OBSERVER Staff Writer

It has been nearly two months since the devastation in Washington, Ill., from an F-4 tornado that ripped through the area.

Former Fredonia residents, the Pawlaks, received an overwhelming amount of support and help from New York following an article published in the Nov. 19 edition of the OBSERVER.

“We have received quite a bit of support from family and residents in the Dunkirk and Fredonia areas,” Kevin Pawlak said. “We got donations from all over New York state.”

It is hard to pick up your life once you have lost everything, but Alex Pawlak is slowly getting back on his feet after losing his home in the November tornado.

“He is just concentrating on school right now,” Kevin Pawlak, Alex’s father said. “Right now he is living with his grandparents.”

The family received bags and bags of clothes, gift cards and other donations.

“Some people donated beyond what I thought was necessary,” Kevin said. “It has been phenomenal, just amazing.”

Alex went looking for his things after the dust settled and found his soccer jersey hanging about 40 feet up a tree.

“It was like a beacon,” Kevin recalled. “(The jersey said), ‘I will survive.'”

Alex has been recovering and his father thinks it’s a blessing he isn’t re-living the whole nightmare.

“It was therapy for him to help others who had lost everything,” Kevin explained. “It really helped.”

Alex works at the Air National Guard on the weekends and was one of the first to be sent to respond to the chaos left behind.

“Alex knew within days after receiving so much help from people he was going to be OK,” Kevin said.

The debris is still there, a reminder of the devastation left as a warning.

“There is not a soul here who will ever hesitate again,” Kevin said. “People know now to take the tornado warnings seriously and they will head right to shelter.”

Kevin said there is “some rebuilding” going on, but the debris is still “disgusting to see.”

Alex told his father he is trying to find a new home, but feels people with families need the homes more than him.

“He still feels lost, doesn’t know how to go about rebuilding his life,” Kevin said. “He is a 20-year-old kid, he will be all right.”

Kevin said he has spoken to a lot of people from his old hometown and it amazes him how a small community can all band together.

“Thanks to you guys in Fredonia and Dunkirk. Alex is doing well,” Kevin said.

Kevin said it has been great to get back in touch with people he hasn’t heard from in years.

“It’s been great hearing from people around that area,” Kevin said. “Wonderful people with an outstanding amount of support.”

Kevin said they have now cut off donations to Washington, Ill., and are using the donations for other disaster-hit places.

“With an overwhelming outreach from back home, this has become a nice success story,” Kevin added.

Comments on this article may be sent to jwillis@observertoday.com