- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
If you hadn’t seen it 10 years ago, it’s hard to imagine that most of La Plata’s central business district was a mass of rubble with crushed buildings, massive piles of debris and mangled messes of concrete, wires and metal after a tornado touched down on a Sunday evening in late April.
It was shortly after 7 p.m. April 28, 2002. The F4 twister hit the town with a vengeance and tore a 13-mile-long swath of destruction from western Charles County through La Plata before heading toward Hughesville and Benedict. It then hit Calvert County before making its way across the Chesapeake Bay into Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Four people died in the tornado’s path. A fifth person succumbed after hearing the news. Hundreds of homes, businesses, a school and other structures were damaged or destroyed in Charles County.
On Saturday, the town will hold a gathering to mark the occasion, to mourn those who died and to remember the strength and resilience of a community that came together, first during the immediate days that followed, and later through the longer haul of years that it took to rebuild.
“Looking at La Plata, if you didn’t know about the tornado, you couldn’t imagine that it happened 10 years ago. There are no scars left,” then-commissioners’ president Murray D. Levy recalled this week as he spoke about the tornado and the community’s effort to put itself back together in the storm’s aftermath.
The Celebrate La Plata event, held each year near the tornado’s anniversary date, serves as a way to bring a closure of sorts for those who lived through the twister and worked to rebuild their businesses, homes and, most importantly, their lives.
Besides a day of family events that take place near the town hall on Queen Anne Street, this year, the celebration is offering a trip down memory lane. Many of the businesses in town are participating. There are signs in front of their buildings showing what they looked like after the tornado and how they look now since they’ve been rebuilt. Many of them had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Several of the signs offer short stories for each of the photos, from the transformation from a “war zone,” as many aptly described the town then, to the beautiful buildings that now have been erected in place of the old ones. It’s an interesting glimpse into the town’s modern history.
The county and the town have learned a lot since then and have much to be thankful for. Join the celebration Saturday (see Page B-9 today for a list of all of the day’s activities) to show appreciation to the many hardworking and caring people who made the town’s reconstruction possible.