Rochelle farming family rebuilds with help after the April 9 tor - – Rockford’s News Leader

Rochelle farming family rebuilds with help after the April 9 tornado


April 9 is only days away from when a Rochelle family farm plants their livelihood. Last year on April 9, however, the Schabacker farm was destroyed and their equipment flatten by a massive tornado. 

Colin Schabacker is a student at Rochelle Township High School. On April 9, 2015, he was at a Future Farmers of America meeting when tornado sirens went off. Locked inside the school Colin could only watch as a tornado half a mile wide barreled towards his family farm. 

"My friend said half his sub division was gone and that was when I started to worry," Colin explained.

After the sirens silenced, Colin struggled to get in touch with family. He called his father and mother and got no response. 

"I eventually called my grandpa and he was on the phone for probably 5 seconds," Colin said. "In that time he said everything was gone and he couldn't be on the phone then hung up."

Colin's fear for his family's farm just had been realized.  Colin was one of only two students allowed to leave the school to go home. He said usually it takes him five minutes to drive home but that night it took him a half-hour. a home he didn't recognize. 

"The creepiest part about it was where there were buildings normally there wasn't buildings anymore," Colin said.

"I could see parts of the sky I've never seen before."

Buildings on the family farm that once stood for decades were gone in minutes. Colin's father, Todd Schabacker, was at the farm and warned the family a tornado was coming their way. The family hid in the basement while the EF-4 tornado went over head. 

"I said we lost everything and it was true," Todd Schabacker explained. "It was just total destruction and everything was flat. All of our equipment was ready to go to the field and it was flattened."

The farm has been in the family since the civil war and the only building that was safe was the house the family was hiding in. Todd and his father Jim, Colin's grandfather, came out from the basement in disbelief. 

The night of the tornado seven barns were destroyed and two silos burned to the ground. 

"It was like a nightmare," Todd said. "Like a dream you wanted to wake up from. But heck, we were awake."

After the storm the community put the weight of cleaning up the Schabacker's farm on their backs. Boy scouts, volunteers, neighbors and fellow farmers made sure the fields were cleared so seeds could be planted. Just weeks after the tornado hit; the corn was sprouting and rebuilding had begun. 

"Everyday we made a lot of progress and they really backed us," Todd said. "We had nothing to put nothing in and the community really helped us."  

The farmers say that terrible night taught them a lot about the community they lived in. The community stood by them as they came out of the storm. 

"As long as we are okay and we did not get hurt," Jim Schabaker adds. "That is the main thing about that night because you can't replace lives."

(The Schabackers rebuild with some help from the community.)

"My parents and I all walked out of the basement without a scratch," Todd explained. "I mean we were not in the hospital or anything so everything else can be fixed."

Colin and his family are getting ready to plant again this April. He says even though the tornado was awful he feels he has grown stronger because of this experience. 

"Everything turned out alright." Colin said. 

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