OAKFIELD (NBC 26) — Sunday marked 25 years since a F-5 tornado struck the village of Oakfield.
After all these years, the community came together to reflect on not only the catastrophic event but to celebrate how resilient they are.
“I think it tugs at the heart strings for sure, it’s something that people that have lived through it, it definitely is kind of chilling for them to relive some of those memories, some of the people they’ve come across in the community as well. Coming together I think, we didn’t loose anybody in that event that’s the biggest thing. Everyone comes together as well. I think it’s a really good anniversary event today,” said Kathy Shafer, Oakfield Lions Club Board Director.
For many Oakfield residents, it was a somber reminder of the day that impacted this community greatly.
“It sounds just like a train’s coming and then of all a sudden it went boom boom and that was it,” said Betty Wessel.
“It was something I hope we never have to go through again, I look around there was nothing left of the village,” said Lornie Indermuehle.
“Everything was gone, you look up main street and there’s nothing,” Wessel said.
Wessel a native of Oakfield reflects back on that day.
She said one of the hardest parts was accounting for her family and making sure everyone was alright.
“I was down by my brother’s and after the tornado went through I came home quick to check my house and then I went down by my mom’s and the house was picked up and she was there. She was 90 years old and my sister was with her. And they were down in the basement, they came up and they were okay,” Wessel said.
Bryan Novak who lived just outside the village at the time captured the twister touching the ground.
“It suddenly dawned on me, I went video camera, so I go where is the video camera,” Novak said. “At first we were like holy cow look at this beautiful thing and then all of a sudden it was like reality. It kind of started to dawn on us like oh no, because you can kind of see where it is going, it’s going to hit Oakfield,” Novak said.
Emergency responders took no hesitation and rushed to the rubble. The Oakfield Fire Chief in 1996 shared what it was like.
“We gathered up fire, EMS, and volunteers, we set up four quadrant groups, we covered the whole village checking every house, trying to count for everybody, shutting off gas, said Gary Collien.
Schools left standing had to be opened welcoming those left homeless.
“So we got keys for the high school and we opened it up. For the next two days I spent at the high school we had to record everybody that came from the village that was supposed to come out to the high school, we’d record their names and if they were looking for somebody they’d call us and ask if we had them at the school or if we had to continue looking for them,” Collien said.
After picking up the pieces, 25 years later Oakfield has rebuilt and is celebrating all that they’ve overcome.
The village’s motto ’Oakfield blown apart, yet sticking together’.
“It’s a wonderful community its nice here, very nice. I wouldn’t move here to go anywhere else. I like it here in Oakfield”, Wessel said.
No lives were lost during that 1996 F5 tornado.