The Rev. Bob Marrone was pained to see the steeple of his 137-year-old church shattered and strewn on the grass in the central Massachusetts town of Monson, yet he knows he's more fortunate than some of his neighbors who lost their homes after tornadoes tore through the state, killing at least four people, damaging buildings, uprooting trees and shattering lives.
"I can see the plywood of roofs, and see houses where most of the house is gone," said Marrone, pastor of The First Church of Monson. "The road that runs up in front of my house ... There's so many trees down, it's completely impassable."
Residents of 19 communities in central and western Massachusetts woke to widespread damage Thursday, a day after at least two late-afternoon tornadoes shocked emergency officials with their suddenness and violence and caused the state's first tornado-related deaths in 16 years.
One tornado was dramatically captured on a mounted video camera as it tore through Springfield, the state's third-largest city. At the MassMutual Center, a cavernous event facility where seniors from Wilbraham's Minnechaug Regional High School had gathered in gowns and tuxedos for prom, the tornado terrified photographers and students as it whirled outside the floor-to-ceiling windows.
"It looked like birds were flying out of the trees and it was rubble," said Martha Vachon, of Photography by Duval of Palmer. The prom went on as scheduled.