Dayton, Ohio, will remember Memorial Day 2019 as a time when tornadoes and winds topping 200 miles-per-hour ripped a 19-mile path through their community.
The tornadoes left more than 70,000 without power and water, and destroyed more than 500 buildings – including the homes of more than 50 AFSCME Local 101 (Council 8) Dayton Public Service Union members.
Despite that, many city employees, like street maintenance worker Curtis Norton, were soon back on the job working 10-hour days helping others.
Norton, his girlfriend and 5-month-old daughter fled when the tornado demolished their apartment building.
“We heard the sirens and a minute later the lights went out and the wind tore our building apart. We were OK, but when we went outside in the dark, we smelled lots of natural gas and knew we had to get out of there quick,” Norton said.
Norton and his family are now living with his sister. He said it’s hard to get his arms around having lost his home but working helps him cope.
“People helped me and I’m happy to return the favor. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Help poured in from places as far away as Columbus and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which sent electric generators that helped restore Dayton’s water supply. The City of Cincinnati dispatched equipment and volunteer members of AFSCME Local 240 who spent a week carpooling every day between the two cities, working long hours to remove downed trees and clear the streets.
Council 8’s local unions in Kettering, Trotwood, Cleveland, Athens, Toledo and Akron sent volunteers and donations to help their displaced union sisters and brothers.
The executive board of AFSCME Local 101 authorized more than $3,000 in gift cards to assist affected members and made donations to the AFL-CIO Labor Food Pantry, which opened its doors to help those in need.
“I am so proud of my AFSCME sisters and brothers for all they have given to help our community recover,” said Local 101 President Ann Sulfridge. “We have shown our community (that) we are AFSCME, we are strong, and we never quit.”
Pictured: Members of AFSCME Local 101