Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s been more than two months since severe storms and straight line winds toppled thousands of trees and left emotional scars in western Wisconsin, but many are beginning to recover.
In Danbury, Wis., at Faith’s Lodge, where parents who have lost a child go for emotional help, one doesn’t need to look far to see the damage left by the July storms.
“It’s going to take years for this place to get back to what it once was,” said Joseph Gatten, who attended Faith’s Lodge after losing his son.
But, at Faith’s Lodge, the landscape now represents a new beginning. For Joseph and Theresa Gatten, the memory of their son, Jaxson, is helping to rebuild. The couple planted a tree in honor of their son.
“We wanted a flowering tree … a sign of rebirth every spring,” Joseph Gatten said.
The new trees are also healing wounds ripped open a second time when straight line winds damaged their place of serenity and the object that bear the names of their loved ones.
“To come here today and rebuild, it’s part of healing process starting all over again,” Gatten said.
The toppled trees also blocked off access to Sophia’s Bridge, a special place at the lodge where parents can pay tribute to their lost child. On Saturday, visitors were able to get back to that place.
“It’s pretty emotional,” said Kristen Pecha, who visited Faith’s Lodge after her son died.
Small stones bearing the names of young ones taken too soon shifted in the straight line winds. Many tried to find them and put them in their proper place Saturday.
“That was my main reason for wanting to come: to find the stone,” Pecha said.
As the lodge would have it, loved ones lost were returned to sacred ground. Sarah Dallum and her family found the stone in memory of her son, Benny, after just a few minutes.
“Now we found Benny’s rock and planted a tree; we are deep in this soil now,” Dallum said. “We’re pretty excited.”
The motto of Faith’s Lodge – A place where hope grows — now takes on new meaning.
Faith’s Lodge will host another tree planting event in the Spring the weekend of Arbor Day. Its goal is to replace all the trees that have been knocked down.