JACOB (WSIL) — Ten years ago, the derecho caused widespread damage in our region. One of our News 3 crews went to a small school in Jacob where the gym was a pile of rubble after the high winds tore it apart.
"It was probably 1 p.m. in the afternoon, and I was in my classroom and something hit the window hard and I said, ‘You know what? That was hard enough to break the window. Everybody out,’" recalled Julie Lalis.
Lalis remembers vividly being inside Christ Lutheran School on May 8, 2009. As her students huddled in the bathroom and hallway, she and another teacher watched out the door as debris went flying.
"This is where we were standing, and this is the roof that started to shake, and both those doors were open, and that’s where we saw it start to blow away, and we turned around and hightailed it," said Lalis.
What they saw was the gymnasium blowing to pieces.The wooden beams and bricks went flying also destroying the playground behind the school. As the strong winds continued, so did the damage.
"So we had opened the door, and as many kids as could fit in the bathroom ran in, and the other overflow was just out here by the wall down in the "protect your head position" and I dove on the kids that were right here by the door because I saw the tree start to fall," said Lalis.
A large tree fell right on to Mrs. Lalis’s classroom breaking the windows. Ten years later, there’s still evidence of what happened there.
"So we still have some mud on the shade, and I refuse to take it off. I don’t want to wash it off. It kind of just reminds me of the fact that we can be thankful for what we do have and that no one was hurt," said Lalis.
Pastor Mike Kettner says he doesn’t remember the loud sound of the gym collapsing or the tree crashing into the classroom. Instead, he remembers hearing the faith of many children.
"The kids were singing hymns, Christian hymns, and praying. I had a prayer with them," said Pastor Kettner.
He said as quickly as the storm blew in, it was gone and the sun was shining.
Within a few months, construction began on the gym they have now.
While the students currently enrolled at Christ Lutheran School have no memories of the storm, Lalis says for everyone there that day ten years ago, the memories are something they’ll carry with them.
"My children were students here at the time also and my youngest daughter, she was probably in second or third grade, and she still is terrified of storms. It was just one of the inevitable outcomes of it," said Lalis.
Although the damage was a big set back for the school, Pastor Kettner says the gymnasium now is much bigger and has air conditioning, which is something they didn’t have before.