It’s been nearly one year since a tornado ripped through Dallas, damaging more than 900 homes and commercial buildings.
Twelve months later, some homeowners and businesses are completing the final touches on their restoration processes. Von Irwin lives on Northaven Road, where volunteers planted two new trees.
“Before the tornado when you come out here, you see all the big live oak trees all the way down the street. You couldn’t see the houses below us,” Irwin said. “Now, a lot is open space. Getting some trees added back in is going to make a lot of difference and make it look like the old neighborhood.”
The tree-planting on Saturday was part of an effort by Kids Luv Trees, Texas Trees Foundation and RETREET. Grady McGahan is the executive director of RETREET, and said they hope to replant 500 of the roughly 3,500 trees destroyed during the Oct. 20, 2019 tornado.
“Having the trees be replanted is an extremely important part of the recovery process here and everywhere, because it’s not going to feel like home again until there are trees,” McGahan said. “Of all the things that have been lost, it’s the trees that take the longest to replace you can’t simply rebuild an 80-year-old oak tree.”
While some areas are good as new, there are other affected areas where recovery is just beginning. Pastor Ricardo Brambila is with Primera Iglesia Bautista Dallas on Betty Jane Lane, which has temporarily relocated services to an old Presbyterian church on Royal Lane.
The church’s original building on Betty Jane Lane was destroyed during the tornado last year and as of Saturday, red brick arches remain the only standing pieces. Within the first 100 days after the tornado, Brambila said about 50 tons of debris were removed.
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“When we go there, I close my eyes and still see our church,” Brambila said. “There is sadness. I have never been a person that wants to over-scrutinize things. Yet in that sadness, you’re grateful for what you had.”
Brambila told NBC 5 Saturday they have created blueprints of what they hope their new church will look like one day. However, financially, it is not possible right now with the ongoing pandemic.
“As a spiritual leader, it is not the moment to ask. I want my people to have food in front of them, to have clothes on their backs. This is a not a time,” he said. “Asking for help is the hardest thing for a church, because we’re here to help.”
Though the past year has not come without challenges, Brambila said it has helped the church rediscover their mission.
“A church that went through a tornado and COVID, and for us to still be standing, we praise God for that. I know that God has something in store for us. Look at us right now. We have nothing, yet we have everything,” he said. “I’m not alone. We’re not alone as a church. I don’t know what exactly the future holds, but I do know who holds the future.”
A prayer vigil will be held at Brambila’s original church site on 10010 Betty Jane Lane to mark the one year anniversary since the tornado. It begins at 6:30 p.m.