Many people in Linn County are leaning on each other for hope after a tornado tore through one family's livelihood and also destroyed the one place they could always rely on to get them through difficult times.
The tornado touched down Sunday afternoon near Pleasanton, completely destroying Fairmount Church that dated back to 1884. The church offered hope for the community.
The storm proved too strong for the church walls, but the community's faith remains intact.
Residents are trying to find whatever they can salvage from the old church. The church sat in the middle of a cemetery.
Rod Earnest, 57, married his wife in the church that his family helped build. He says he started attending services there since he was born and his ancestors are buried in it.
Earnest says weekly sermons were no longer held there. However, once a year, it would hold a special Easter Sunday service. This past Easter about 70 people piled in the church for that sunrise service. Those pews are now splinters.
The doors were always open to anyone needing to pray, and funerals were frequently held inside the church.
Cindy Earnest came to check out her family's tombstone Monday.
"It's just really sad. And then the church. I mean, even if they rebuilt the church, what would that symbolize? I don't know what it would mean for everyone out here to have another one, losing what we had," Cindy Earnest said.
She became teary eyed when she saw the damage.
"It's sad," she said. "It's just disrespect, but weather has no rhyme or reason. It just takes over. All the beautiful cedar trees are gone."
She said rebuilding the church wouldn't be the same because it wouldn't have the history of the creaky, well-used original building.
"We had just redone the interior, remodeled the interior to keep it up, to keep it from deteriorating," Rod Earnest said.
One of the first priorities will be cleaning up the tombstones with more than half knocked over.
The tornado also ripped through a family construction shop about a half-mile up the road from the church.
There was not much left of Triple S Construction, and expensive service equipment, like trucks and a bulldozer, sit underneath the ruble.
Everything the family used to make a living with is gone.
Rod Earnest saw the twister coming through a valley near his home.
"I hit the Martins, and thank God they weren't home or it didn't get their house," he said. "It got their shop, which is just a few feet from his home. We were very fortunate no one was hurt. So we feel blessed in that."
The Martins happened to be eating dinner at the home of a nearby friend.
"If we had been in there, we would have had no warning at all," Skylar Martin said.
Right after the storm passed, neighbors started showing up to the business to help the owners rebound.
"It is amazing how the neighbors support us all, and they came out immediately. It is really humbling to know that you have everybody here to help you out," Martin said.
The Martins do have insurance, so they say over the next couple days they'll be taking inventory of what was lost.
They're relieved no one was inside at the time and that no one was hurt.
KCTV5's DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.
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