It was already a small town to begin with, but when a tornado hit Reading, KS, one year ago about 100 people lost their homes.
There were worries that it would have a tough time moving forward, but the town is bouncing back stronger than ever.
"People went through a lot and it takes time to rebuild," Miracle Cafe owner Reta Jackson said. "It takes time to rebuild our lives, but we're all trying to do that."
Like clockwork, Jim and Fox, Eugene and Charles come in for a meal during the lunch rush at the Miracle Café. They come in to chat and fill the seats they thought they had lost.
"Quite a bit of damage done," Jackson said. "But I was bound and determined that I was not going to let the tornado win. So we made sure that we got open in 2011."
Open in a new building, but one with pieces saved from the old café in the oldest house in town.
Some of the woodworking, the doors from the pie cupboard and the china cupboard all came out of the old house, patched together like the people in Reading. The items are glued to each other by a shared history and a common goal.
"We want our town back," Jackson said.
A year ago, the EF3 tornado swept through Reading, damaging 80 percent of the town's 200 buildings.
When the tornado hit, gathering points like the grain elevator, café, post office and bank were all gone. But even in that devastation, residents recognized their good fortune. The damage was to wood and siding, metal and plaster. All things that could be fixed, for all except one.
Lavonda Chesmore's husband, Don, was the only person killed in the storm.
"It just feels kind of like you're on an island or something and nobody can reach you," Lavonda Chesmore said. "He was a good guy."
When the tornado hit, they were in their trailer home, with no time to get to safety.
"We crouched down side-by-side between the bed and the dresser. The next thing I knew I had a piece of the bed on top of me and he was over in the corner almost outside, he was in the rain and the hail," Chesmore said.
Doctors said something hit her husband's chest, killing him before he reached the hospital.
"He'd never get up in the morning without telling me he loved me, never go to bed at night without telling me he loved me," Chesmore said.
Even showing his love in the moments before the storm hit, he wrapped her in a quilt beside him.
"It is a little rag tag. It has got spots where it is dirty, but it still means a lot," Chesmore said.
And she still sleeps under it every night, bringing her husband into her new home in Topeka that he never got to share.
"He would have loved this house," Chesmore said.
On the land where he died, a new home is now coming to life, a step forward Chesmore welcomes, strengthening her hope. Even if her husband can't come back, Reading will.
"It was a neat little town," Chesmore said.
Plenty of people thought that with so much damage to such a small community, whatever was left of the town would simply fade away.
"There were too many people and too many nay-sayers that said 'Oh, Reading will never be back' and it just made us more determined to say 'Watch us, just watch us,'" Jackson said.
With an army of volunteers, working nonstop to clean up, then build new homes.
Bill Paige has been playing double duty, mapping out the recovery as a city councilman while finding a new home for his own family.
"I'm just amazed how things are coming together and just falling into place," Paige said.
However, there was a real fear that the school's population would drop too low to keep it open.
"In a lot of little towns, if they lose their school or their post office, they're pretty much turned into ghost towns," Paige said.
But Reading fought back and reopened the school with six more students than it had when it closed.
"So this is a lot of encouragement to us, to see all these young people that are still coming here to school," Paige said.
Many are still without a home rebuilt in Reading, but they are choosing to bus back to their town. The school is full and jobs are secured at the restored grain elevator which was flattened but now humming again.
Residents feel blessed that they get to be a part of this community, and can walk a few blocks down the street and be with friends. The pieces are fitting together again and holding tight, no matter what comes next.
Maybe they are not all taking the same road, but people in Reading are all trying to get to the same place. Everyone is just trying to get to back to their hometown.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
Friday, May 24 2013 9:01 PM EDT2013-05-25 01:01:17 GMT
Strong feelings are funning high one day after the Boy Scouts of America reversed its policy on gay scouts. The decision upset one Kansas City man so much that he decided to make a very personal protest.More >
Strong feelings are running high one day after the Boy Scouts of America reversed its policy on gay scouts. The decision upset one Kansas City man so much that he decided to make a very personal protest.More >
Dan Sligh and his wife were in their pickup truck on Interstate 5 heading to a camping trip when a bridge before them disappeared in a "big puff of dust."More >
The trucker was hauling drilling equipment when his load bumped against the steel framework over an Interstate 5 bridge. He looked in his rearview mirror and watched in horror as the span collapsed into the water behind him....More >
Friday, May 24 2013 7:38 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:38:20 GMT
The federal government warned recently that nearly three out of five tested positive for the bacteria found in feces. With Memorial Day weekend marking the official start of pool season, the Centers forMore >
The federal government warned recently that nearly three out of five tested positive for the bacteria found in feces. There are steps you can take to enjoy a summer day at the pool. More >
Friday, May 24 2013 7:31 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:31:26 GMT
A nurse who serves on the Kauffman Stadium K-crew was able to revive a 14-year-old girl who collapsed during Thursday night's game.The girl was dancing in the upper-deck stands when she suddenly collapsed.More >
A nurse who serves on the Kauffman Stadium K-crew was able to revive a 14-year-old girl who collapsed during Thursday night's game.More >
Friday, May 24 2013 7:40 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:40:51 GMT
It was a wild night after a liquor store robber shoved two people into a cooler, got into a shootout with police and drove the wrong way on Interstate 70 before crashing into a Fed-Ex truck.The suspect,More >
It was a wild night after a liquor store robber shoved two people into a cooler, got into a shootout with police and drove the wrong way on Interstate 70 before crashing into a Fed-Ex truck.More >
Friday, May 24 2013 10:30 PM EDT2013-05-25 02:30:12 GMT
The state of Missouri's top auditor is discussing a possible review of the Kansas City, MO, Water Services Department after four stories from the KCTV5 Investigations' team exposed major discrepancies. TheMore >
The state of Missouri's top auditor is discussing a possible review of the Kansas City, MO, Water Services Department after four stories from the KCTV5 Investigations' team exposed major discrepancies.More >
Friday, May 24 2013 5:23 PM EDT2013-05-24 21:23:39 GMT
Police are investigating whether a person being shot in the chest is connected to a home invasion robbery.Two men attempted to burst into a home in the 106 block of Greenwood Road when shots were fired.More >
A woman fired shots at three men attempting to break into her home, and one of the suspects was shot in the chest, police said. Her husband described the harrowing ordeal. More >
Friday, May 24 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:16:39 GMT
(RNN) – When faced with a cleaver-wielding killer who'd just murdered someone, what would you do? For Ingrid Loyau-Kennet, the answer was obvious. Instead of running for her life, she engaged him inMore >
A British woman voluntarily put herself face-to-face with an alleged terrorist and may have saved lives. More >
Friday, May 24 2013 6:57 PM EDT2013-05-24 22:57:04 GMT
A former KCK police officer is accused of threatening the lives of Police Chief Rick Armstrong and Capt. Greg Lawson.A federal grand jury has indicted Johh R. Hudson. He faces four counts involving threatsMore >
A former KCK police officer is accused of threatening the lives of police Chief Rick Armstrong and Capt. Greg Lawson.More >
Friday, May 24 2013 9:50 PM EDT2013-05-25 01:50:09 GMT
A popular social networking site is working to scrub its database of people who advertise sex services by changing some of the wording in its user agreement. The site in question is LinkedIn, which hasMore >
A popular social networking site is working to scrub its database of people who advertise sex services by changing some of the wording in its user agreement.More >