A Blueprint for Rebuilding

July 11, 2006 - Posted at 5:37 p.m. CDT

CARUTHERSVILLE, MO - It's a town that was devastated by April 2nd's tornado and on Tuesday, the Federal Office of Emergency Management turned over their long term recovery plan to the community of Caruthersville.

After receiving input from citizens and different agencies in Pemiscot County, FEMA has put together a comprehensive plan that includes the goals, vision, projects and programs that the community wants to see accomplished.  Most of the projects are designed to be achieved in five years or less and will focus on the need for housing, renovation of the school and the development of new economic opportunities. FEMA turned the plan over to local authorities, but isn't walking away completely.

"We are all staying around but at a different level of service," said FEMA Long Term Recovery Director Steve Castaner, "We'll still provide service just remotely but the local leadership is taking over this plan and moving it forward during the implementation."

Funding for the projects isn't guaranteed, but the Missouri Department of Economic Development is helping the community find ways to fund the projects.

One of the issues on the table for FEMA's long term recovery plan in Southeast Missouri includes housing. FEMA Court 1635 is the mobile housing community in Caruthersville that is currently sheltering 30 families with more applying for housing every day.

"I thank God for it everyday," said Pemiscot County resident Mary Fields, "All my kids had was their bed and it was just something they could call home."

Fields and her family lost everything in the F3 tornado that hit on the afternoon of April 2nd.  Until two weeks ago, they were living with her mother in a small two bedroom home.  Now, they are some of the newest residents of FEMA Court 1635.

"You know, I hear a lot of people complaining about them," said Fields, "But hey, you got a place for you and your family to call yours now. It gives you time to save up and get on your feet."

It's a break that Fields and her family had been desperate for after repeatedly failing to find a place to call home.

"When we got ready to get a house, we got the money for it and they put someone else in it. It breaks your heart especially when you have kids," said Fields, "This is ours and we have a place to call our own. I thank FEMA and I thank everyone, we enjoy it and we love it."

Fields and all residents of Court 1635 are on a month-to-month lease. The family loves their new place and the neighborhood but continues to slowly put the pieces back together on their new lives.

"One thing I can say is don't give up and pray, a blessing will come," smiled Fields.

Things continue to improve for the Fields family. Mary Fields has several prospects for employment and hopes to secure a new job in the next couple weeks.