I was prepared for chainsaw training with Team Rubicon in northern Wisconsin the weekend of April 11, but that quickly turned into a deployment.
On April 9, an EF4 tornado tore through the small town of Fairdale, IL. After one day of training, our course was rerouted to the affected area, where we finished training and provided cleanup in the wake of the storm. I had to return home for work after a couple of days, but Team Rubicon stayed on the ground for two weeks, completing 52 work orders and managing hundreds of spontaneous volunteers on Operation: Barbed Wire.
One property in town stood out from the rest. I remember seeing the structure, mangled and leaning as we passed through town those first couple of days. An historic structure buff, it pained me to see such a beautiful building destroyed; I knew it would have to be torn down.
The following weekend I received a message from a fellow TR member serving as the Liaison Officer. In the message were pictures of broken stained glass windows removed from the old church turned private home, and a simple request, “Can we fix these?” I knew we could.
Just a month earlier, I visited my dad to learn the art of stained glass. A Vietnam Dustoff pilot and 23-year veteran of the Flint Fire Department, he understands and appreciates Team Rubicon’s dual mission. Since his retirement in 1999 and purchase of a historic home with many stained and leaded glass windows in the centuries old City of Sault Ste. Marie, MI, he’s been repairing and making stained glass windows and sun catchers. I immediately emailed him the window photos and a plan was hatched – we would repair the small window for the homeowner, at no charge.
Three weeks later, the windows were in his hands. He carefully dismantled the window, cleaned the glass and refinished the original wood frame. Using salvaged glass, only one new piece of glass, plus a medallion I made for the center, he reassembled the window and mated it to the frame. On August 9, Team Rubicon Region V hosted a barbecue for the citizens of Fairdale. With regional leaders in attendance, the window was presented back to the Long family with a few tears and hugs.