Grads return to find tornado
Siblings Bob and Jean Zosel returned to their hometown on Thursday for their all-school reunion at Wadena-Deer Creek High School, but the focus of their trip shifted soon after arriving at their parents' Wadena home.
"We got here, went in the house, went downstairs and 20 minutes later, it was all over," said Bob, who traveled from Jackson Beach, Fla.
They, like many of the nearly 2,000 other past graduates returning for the reunion, found themselves in the middle of a tornado that swept through the town late Thursday afternoon, leaving the high school and much of the town extensively damaged.
With the town moving into cleanup mode, organizers were forced to cancel the reunion, which was scheduled to kick off Thursday evening.
But many reunion-goers are sticking around to help with the damage.
Since their parents' home received no damage, "we've just been going around the neighborhood helping," Jean Zosel said.
She said people who originally were not returning for the reunion are now planning to come back to help recovery efforts as well.
Carol Taggart, one of the two organizers for the event, said it was disappointing not to be able to hold the reunion they had planned for two years.
"It's a letdown, but you look around the rest of the town and the all-school reunion gets to be a minor thing," Taggart said.
This was supposed to be the first all-school reunion since 1981, with a parade scheduled for Thursday night and daily tours of the school and auditorium. Some classes tried to make the best of the situation with their own impromptu get-togethers, and a few milestone graduating years class gatherings Friday night that were cut short by town curfews, set by authorities for 11 p.m. after the tornado.
"The whole weekend was planned for this all-school reunion," said Jeane Zosel, Bob and Jean's mother.
"We shifted gears just like that," added Jean, who came for the reunion from Missoula, Mont.
Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom said there were about 15 people in the high school when the tornado struck, including many associated with the reunion. They sought shelter in the boys' locker room in the basement.