Three years later; communities affected by 2011 tornado reflect back

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)–Three years ago on this date, the lives of thousands of people in several Western Massachusetts communities were forever changed when a powerful tornado ripped through a path 40 miles long, and one mile wide. 22News went to the Island pond road area of East Forest park where residents of that severely affected neighborhood reflected on that fateful day.

“The doors were shaking and you could hear debris hitting the building… and I looked up this way and it was kind of starting to curve, and I’m like ‘Wow!’, I said that’s heading right for our neighborhood,” long-time resident of Springfield, Jim Grahm

Grahm worked close enough to his East Forest Park home that he was able to see the June, 1st 2011 tornado as it heading towards his house. Grahm returned home from work that day to find a tree through his house, his entire roof gone, and the only part of his garage left was the foundation. “And just looking at my stuff scattered all over the place, it’s like ‘Oh my God’,” Grahm said as he recalled that image.

Three years ago this is where the June 1st tornado ripped through this East Forrest Park section of Springfield, destroying homes, and one of the major characteristics of this neighborhood, it’s trees.

When Leilani Paniagua moved to Springfield from Boston, she picked that neighborhood specifically for its character and feeling of home that it gave her. She told 22News the trees are what made it so beautiful.

She and her neighbor Mark Frodema spent the morning reflecting back on the progress their neighborhood has made since the winds reaching speeds as high as 160 miles an hour changed it all.

“Things are getting better, the trees are starting to fill in a little bit, it feels weird if you look at the pictures, like did we really go through that?” Frodema said.

“We’re proud of living in this neighborhood. For me like I said I used to rent and I decided to buy in this neighborhood, even with the baby trees as I like to call them, just knowing that we’re going to have a really bright future ahead of us,” Paniagua told 22News.

Three years later, almost all of the homes have been either repaired or new ones were built in their place, but for many the painful memories will take much longer to heal.


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