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Massachusetts: Primary children help clean up after tornado

SPRINGFIELD, MASS.

On Wednesday afternoon June 1, a tornado hit the city of Springfield, Mass. Tornadoes are so rare in New England that no one expected it. Primary children of the Ludlow Ward, Springfield Massachusetts Stake each had a unique experience during the tornado.

Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado.
Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado. Photo: Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shurtleff Hua

One family hurried to their cellar to take cover. They read their scriptures by flashlight and slept through the night downstairs. A few children were riding in cars. It took these children two or three hours to get home because broken power lines and trees blocked the roads. One child was home when he heard the roar of the wind like a low flying airplane and felt windows break around him and trees crack. Another child asked his aunt, "What can stop a tornado?" Before she could answer, he said, "I know. Prayer can!" All of the children were praying to be safe, praying for family members to return home safely and praying for the people of their city.

Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado.
Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado. Photo: Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shurtleff Hua

Much of the area lost electricity for several days. School was cancelled on Thursday and Friday. Stores and restaurants were closed. Cell phones and phone lines did not work. Many homes and schools throughout the city were destroyed or badly damaged. The tornado left a terrible mess.

During this time, one child ate meals cooked in a Dutch oven over charcoals. Another family helped their great-grandmother by removing trees from off of her house and yard. Children and their parents checked on neighbors, family and friends to see if everyone was safe and if anyone needed food or help. On Saturday, Primary children helped to clear the grass around the chapel by picking up sticks while their fathers used chain saws to cut up large trees.

Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado.
Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado. Photo: Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shurtleff Hua

By Sunday, June 5, the children were able to dress in their church clothes and go to sacrament meeting. It was fast Sunday. The children listened to and bore touching testimonies about the power of prayer and the miracles they experienced by following the Holy Ghost. The children had a special Primary meeting in which they learned about strengthening their spirits. They ended with a prayer of gratitude for their lives and for being able to worship together. After the meeting, Bishop Travis Reed asked the ward members to go out and serve the people of their city.

Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado.
Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado. Photo: Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shurtleff Hua

The children worked with their parents and ward members all afternoon to remove trees, branches and leaves from a few of the homes severely hit by the tornado.

At one home, Ruth, an 83-year-old woman, answered the door. She responded, "God bless you! God bless you!" to the help the ward members offered. Her entire front and back yards were filled with large fallen trees. Ruth had no family in the area to come help her.

The Primary children worked hard to drag branches and sticks into a pile on the roadside. The pile became so large; it looked like a snow bank. For three hours, they raked up smaller branches, loaded them into wheelbarrows and dumped them along the sides of the street so the city would come to remove them.

Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado.
Youth assist in cleanup following Massachusetts tornado. Photo: Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shurtleff Hua

The three youngest children helped with their mothers. Two of them brought sandwiches and water to the men and women who were working. One six-month-old visited with Ruth sharing smiles and love while his mother listened to her story of surviving the tornado. As the children ended their Sunday service, they walked away with smiles and the bright hope of love in their hearts.