Artwork Donated to Rowlett, Reminder of Strength Shown in Wake of Tornado

In just a matter of days, the city of Rowlett will mark two years since an EF-4 tornado swept through on the day after Christmas, leaving a path of destruction four miles long and nearly a mile wide.

While several homes are still gone — their lots stripped down to a bare foundation — people who lived through the storm, and the cleanup that followed, are focusing on the good. It's the silver lining that can usually be found in the wake of tragedy.

"Nobody really knew each other before the tornado. It was sort of a wave as you come down the street. But we formed life-long bonds with our neighbors that I just don't think you would do on a normal basis," said Bonnie Rangel.

Rangel has lived in Rowlett's Peninsula neighborhood for the last decade.

She and a few of her children were home the night of the storm, crowding into her master closet to stay safe. Her home suffered significant damage.

"Roof damage, fence damage, foundation, trees down on top of the roof, broken windows," Rangel said.

Still, she says it was nothing compared to her many neighbors who lost everything.

"It was really devastating to see the first half of the street gone," Rangel said.

As Rangel began work cleaning up her own home, she threw herself into volunteering to help others. That experience showed her that the storm had a way of turning neighbors into friends, which inspired art. Her palette was a broken piece of fence, a remnant or memory of what they'd endured.

"It's a picture of the neighborhood all standing outside greeting one another just sharing a bond," Rangel said. "It was actually just something I do, a therapeutic tool I think that I use."

Rangel first shared her art with neighbors. Recently one neighbor gifted Rangel's work to the city of Rowlett.

There, they hope it serves as a reminder to all that they built back stronger than before.

"Maybe it helps you verbalize what you can't actually say," Rangel said.

Rangel, along with her neighbor who donated the work, and another who helped frame it, were recognized by the city council on Tuesday.

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