Fr. Ackeret said he also knows of two parish families whose homes were destroyed. One family lived right behind the damaged cemetery and their home was completely demolished, and another couple, whose baby is to be baptized at church soon, also lost their home.
In the days since the storm, Fr. Ackeret said he’s been amazed at the response by surrounding communities.
Donations for Eagle tornado
victims can be sent to
Tornado Disaster Relief
c/o St. Theresa St. Vincent de Paul Society
136 W. Waukesha Road,
Eagle, WI 53119-2026
“It’s been an amazing thing to realize the response of people to the need, particularly people coming from other communities and counties around us, the response of the volunteer fire departments … you get a real sense of what community is all about especially in small communities,” he said, praising volunteers from Mequon, Jefferson County, Palmyra, Mukwonago and Dousman, among others. He also praised the efforts of local teens.
“All the youth, the kids, our teenagers have been out there helping with their friends. You always hear the bad things (about teenagers) but I have been amazed at the wonderful response,” he said.
When the tornado hit, Fr. Ackeret was at his East Troy home. He and members of the parish building and grounds committee had concluded a meeting at the parish at about 8:45 p.m., and Fr. Ackeret said he invited members to stay after for refreshments.
But committee members responded, “Father, you haven’t seen the lightning. We think we want to get home before the storm,” said Fr. Ackeret, noting his back was to the window during the meeting and he was unaware of the impending weather.
The tornado struck about 30 minutes later.
Two days after the tornado, Fr. Ackeret said he went downtown hoping to lend a hand. But he said he felt as if he were in a John Wayne movie as he strolled down Main Street.
Wearing his Roman collar, and hoping to lend assistance where needed, instead he was asked to leave the area by a sheriff’s deputy.
“The sheriff told me to get out of town, as it was unsafe and anybody walking the streets had to get out of downtown,” he said. “For me, I had a sense of helplessness to not be there to be able to help folks, and since I don’t reside in the village, they were not letting anybody in.”
The parish is responding in two specific ways, however, said Fr. Ackeret. Last Sunday, the parish took up a second collection with funds going toward relief in the area. Additionally, the parish will donate $10,000 from its funds to aid in the relief effort.
“One of the things we as a parish are concerned about is to make sure there is help for folks after the other emergency folks go. The Red Cross has left, Salvation Army has left, and there will be some kind of help coming in — the response from various insurance agencies. But as things settle down, we want to make sure we continue to help folks in whatever way we can,” he said.
As for repairs to the parish cemetery, Fr. Ackeret said, “We have to help people with their homes first, and then we’ll get to the cemetery.”
He said several of the downed cedar trees will be salvaged for wood projects, but he will need to hire a monument company to reset the monuments in the cemetery, a task not covered by insurance.
“There is still much to be done in rebuilding the lives of those who suffered from this tornado,” wrote Fr. Ackeret in the July 3-4 Sunday bulletin. “As the rush of immediate response and cleanup slows, we must continue to reach out to neighbors and friends whose homes and lives have been completely blown apart….”
The response for one another in Eagle is evidence for all to see of the kind of folks who live here. I am convinced that we will build up again and we will become stronger for this test of your resilience. I believe Eagle will be a tighter, closer, more caring community than ever before, because we have seen what love can do,” he wrote.