WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 26, 2010, 09:17 AM

Volunteers repair tombstones damaged by a tornado

Wadena, Minn. (WDAY TV) - When a tornado ripped through Wadena, Minnesota in June, it left a trail of destruction that even scarred one of the most sacred places in town, the cemetery. Hundreds of gravestones were toppled over, as were countless trees. Professionals are now volunteering to repair what the storm left behind.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Crews from Fergus Falls Monument are used to working in cemeteries, but not graveyards where close to 500 tombstones are down and in need of up-righting. Today, Bruce Albjerg and Mike Welle used straps to get the monuments off the ground and back up the way they were.

“You step back and look and wonder ‘Oh my God, are we going to get out of here?’ But we keep on plugging away.”

It is quite a sight. Rows of gravestones toppled. Some even missing, but for those with loved ones here…

“Your loved ones are here. Your roots are here and they think of them as much as you do, that is tremendous.”

“It is nice to see volunteers taking the time to focus on something so meaningful to the town.”

With nearly 500 stones overturned, it has not only become a cosmetic issue but one of safety.

“It is nice to help. I don't see it as that. It is what we do for a living. It is nice to help.”

This final resting place, which looked like a war zone a month ago, now getting the attention and TLC that families here say their loved ones deserve. Volunteers have already started planting new trees at the cemetery to replace the hundreds lost in the storm.

One of the biggest concerns any city faces after a natural disaster is "an exodus" of residents. Several homes were actually blown away in Wadena. Some of those empty lots are now for sale, as are others that were damaged in the tornado. But the number of homes for sale in Wadena is only up slightly from last year. Still, those trying to sell homes after the storm have their reasons.

“And instead of rebuilding, they are going to an apt right now and maybe buy a smaller house because their kids are gone and downsizing and moving faster.”

Right now there are 94 properties for sale in Wadena. That is just two more than last year at this time.