MAPLETON, Iowa — Laura Gries dropped off her municipal cable TV bill at Mapleton City Hall on Monday morning.
“It was due,” she said.
Gries doesn’t have a TV. Doesn’t have a house. Her’s was one of 120 homes destroyed by the tornado that ravaged Mapleton on Saturday.
Gries plans ahead. She wants TV when she gets settled in a new home or apartment. She’s living in Onawa, Iowa, with daughter Lois Olsen. But that’s temporary.
“She’s too independent to stay with me,” Olsen said of her mother.
Gries is 95. She was one of two people missing briefly Saturday after the tornado. Neighbors found her under the stairs leading to her basement. All that was left of the home were those stairs and a couple of closets.
“I have a century box with files of my important papers,” Gries told me. “I have the only key for that box, but we can’t find the box.”
Gries will soon get an apartment in Mapleton. Friends wonder if she might rebuild.
“Wouldn’t put it past her,” said Keith Robinson, a 64-year-old retired teacher who marvels at Gries and the rebuilding spirit already emerging in this battered community.
I told Robinson I heard repeatedly Sunday that Mac’s Chevrolet wouldn’t reopen. The damage to the cars and building was too extensive. Robinson, the town’s historian, took exception to this hearsay. He drove me straight to Mac’s. (Actually, his Pontiac was due for service Monday. He was going there anyway.)
Robinson introduced me to Tom McNamara, Mac’s owner since 1971. I told McNamara what I heard Sunday.
McNamara pointed to a 2011 Chevy Equinox, one of three new vehicles Mac’s staffers would deliver to customers Monday. He pointed to employees sweeping glass on the lot and those filing papers inside.
“Our parts and service department are open this morning and will stay open,” McNamara said. “The biggest damage we have is to our showroom. We’re waiting for the insurance adjuster to come.”
Mac’s also had 100 vehicles damaged. Another insurance pro (or pros) was coming to assess those.
“Put it in the Journal that we’re open and it is business as usual,” said McNamara, whose father, William McNamara, opened the dealership in May 1952. He died Septbemer 1971. That’s when Tom took over. He was 22.
“I’ve run this business for 40 years and this is the biggest thing we’ve had to deal with,” he said.
He dealt with bigger issues Saturday. He’s the town’s assistant fire chief. Six of his 26 employees lost their home that night. He found them all and said Mac’s – and their job – would be there for them.
That news relieved Kevin Goslar, the service manager at Mac’s who took Monday off to tend to his largely destoyed home at 505 South Second St. An interior wall in the living room was impaled by a board that shot through a window in the twister.
“The insurance company says the home is likely a loss,” said Goslar, who bought the house 15 years ago. It’s where he and wife Jennifer have raised their children. “We’ll rebuild. We’ll stay in Mapleton as long as we’ve got a job.”
Just down the street Mahlon and Collette Carothers worked with friends on their damaged home, one they bought 20 years ago. Four months ago the couple finished the last of their remodeling projects.
Or so they thought.
Collette glanced at the sun streaming through a hole in the roof. Glass and plaster crunched beneath her shoes on the hardwood floor.
“We’ll rebuild,” Collette said. “Right here. No doubt about it.”
In a way, business as usual.