One family begins the process of cleaning upby Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
Hugo residents who lost their homes to Sunday's tornado are beginning to ponder what's next. They spent much of yesterday sifting through the contents of their lives. But they're also calling insurance companies and cleanup crews and setting their sights on the rebuild.
Hugo, Minn. — Proof of Jane Deppert's life is on display for all to see.
There are the ruined posters of the six marathons she's run; shards of glass that once framed a picture of her trip to Cabo. And the flat tires of dirt bikes that belonged to her two sons.
But there is hardly anything worth saving. Deppert says soon she will have to walk away.
"Sure, you could keep looking and looking and looking, but after a while, it's just wasted time," Deppert said. "We've got to move on. We've got to go to Target and buy toothpaste. I just can't keep sifting through and looking for a ball, like he is."
She is referring to her 13-year-old son Peter. He's climbing through the rubble, keeping an eye out for anything that can be salvaged.
"He started digging out one of the chairs, and I said, 'Just leave it, for heaven's sakes. Just leave it, who cares.' I don't want the chairs. I want the pictures," Jane said.
Deppert is a scrapbooker, so it's no wonder she prizes the artifacts that tell her family's story. She's searching for autographed hockey pucks and homemade Mother's Day gifts. These are things that can't be reproduced.
"A whole lifetime, a lifetime of pictures are here. A lifetime of everything," Jane said.
More than anything, she wants to find her jewelry box and a gold pocket watch. It was a gift from her grandmother to her grandfather when they got married.
Deppert looks every bit the athlete as she nimbly scampers in and out of crevices in her Nikes. Friends and neighbors have come to help her navigate through the rubble. Her next-door neighbor works for a disaster restoration company. He's arranged for a few of his workers to help her find her belongings.
Over the weekend, Deppert and her sons were at a cabin in western Wisconsin when the tornado struck.
They returned to find their house upended. A second floor was standing on its edge, jutting into the sky.
But Deppert is counting her blessings. She and the boys are temporarily staying with Deppert's boyfriend in nearby Bayport. The family's insurance will allow them to buy new things to replace the old.
And all of the valuables Deppert stowed away in a fire-proof safe in the garage were left unscathed.
Still, her 10-year-old son Matthew is taking the news pretty hard. He didn't want to visit the house, preferring to be with his grandmother. His older brother Peter explained why.
"We had two pet ducks. My brother won them at school, and they died," Peter explained.
Peter said the mallards were growing fast. In two more weeks, they were going to be big enough to fly. The boys planned to release them from their garage and into the wild. But the tornado changed that.
"We found them just laying there, it was kind of hard to see," Peter said.
Peter said his brother and him like living in the neighborhood. Many of the neighbors, like the Depperts, are hockey-loving families, and the boys have plenty of friends nearby.
But Jane Deppert needs to think it over on whether she'll rebuild on the same lot, or even in the same neighborhood.
Later in the day, one of the workers pops up from the rubble to tell Deppert he has a present for her. He hands her a red jewelry box. Minutes later, he finds the pocket watch.
"Oh my gosh, that is unbelievable. That is unbelievable..."
Deppert directs group exercise programs for a fitness club. She said she'll teach a few aerobics classes this week just to blow off steam. She also plans on sending the boys back to school this morning.
While Tuesday was for sifting and remembering, she said Wednesday is about getting closer to normal.
- Morning Edition, 05/28/2008, 7:20 a.m.