Statement as issued Friday by Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.:
“This weekend marks one year since a violent tornado struck southern Indiana killing 11 people and forever changing the lives of many Hoosiers. Immediately following the storm, I toured the damage with local officials and visited with Hoosiers impacted by the tragic event.
“What I witnessed will be etched in my mind for the rest of my life.
“I saw nearly a 50 mile-long strip of land, a quarter to a half-mile wide, with everything in its path completely destroyed. Every home and business reduced to rubble. Every open field strewn with debris, some carried for miles before deposit. Every tree stripped bare or flattened.
“Every car or truck damaged by softball sized hail or turned upside down by 175 mph winds. A house miraculously still intact in the distance, but picked up and moved 100 yards east of its foundation. Small rural towns completely destroyed by Mother Nature’s unforgiving force.
“A high school of more than 1,100 students was in shambles. Buses and cars hurled into buildings across the street. An entire family was torn apart because the tornado arrived seconds before they were able to reach their basement.
“And yet among these devastating images, what stuck with me the most were the countless stories of heroism, generosity and resolve of the people of Indiana. The two school bus drivers who made a split second decision to turn around and get the kids off the bus and into a shelter. The buses were destroyed minutes later.
“Local police, fire and rescue teams rushed toward danger. Neighbors ran to help the injured. Citizens from nearby towns and counties offered food and shelter for the victims. Former strangers became immediate friends.
“I remember seeing an American flag planted among the debris as displaced homeowners were picking through the ruins, hoping to recover lost memories and precious keepsakes. As I surveyed these scenes one year ago, I felt deeply moved by the unbreakable American spirit – a spirit so alive and strong in Indiana at a time of tragedy.
“We will never be able to replace the precious lives lost from Mother’s Nature’s destruction, but Hoosiers proved that they will always come together in times of trial to help each other rebuild one day at a time. It’s the Hoosier way and it is something we can all be proud of on this somber anniversary.”