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Tornado survivors tell their stories

About 50 survivors told their stories in a newly released book for the second anniversary of the twin EF4 tornadoes that leveled areas of Wadena and east Otter Tail County on June 17, 2010.

The book, "Struck Down but Not Destroyed: A 9-11 Experience", was signed by several tornado survivors and cleanup volunteers at the Burlington Northern Park Thursday evening before and during the June Jubilee parade.

One of the main organizers, Jean Siirila, contacted dozens of people affected by the storms so the stories could be compiled into the 162-page book.

The foreword compares June 17, 2010 to a "9/11" experience as survivors have often had to deal with post-traumatic stress symptoms. Some people find healing in publicly telling their stories while others are not yet ready to talk about it.

Regina Weniger was at the park to sign copies of the book. The cover illustration of large slabs of tin wrapped around a tree with torn branches is from her own property.

"That's our picture on the front page," Weniger said. "Oh, that turned out beautiful."

The Wenigers' daughter and grandson, Lori and Zach Meeks, also signed the books. They helped with the cleanup in the aftermath of the storm.

Last year, the first tornado book ultimately named "Twisted Together by an EF4" was published, and "Struck Down but Not Destroyed" was one of the working titles thrown around. Siirila was involved with the first book and said the title stuck with her.

First copies of "Struck Down but Not Destroyed" were picked up Thursday morning in time to sell during June Jubilee.

"The ink is almost still wet yet," Jean's husband Harold

Siirila said.

Earlier there were worries about stormy weather for the Thursday parade, but the evening turned out to be dry and sunny.

Weniger expressed optimism about life after the tornadoes.

"When you're given lemons you make lemonade," she said.

Proceeds from the book after expenses go to the Wadena Otter Tail Long Term Recovery Committee.