To Our Harrison Family,
It’s hard to believe that one year ago today the lives of many of our friends and neighbors changed in a blink of an eye. September 1, 2021, will be remembered as the day our community was impacted by a rare tornado. This was only the fourth EF3 level tornado ever recorded in the state and the first since 1990.
The tornado produced a funnel cloud that was 400 yards wide, with sustained winds at over 150mph for 20 minutes. It created a 12.6 mile long path of destruction through Mullica Hill and neighboring towns.
Thankfully there was no loss of human life and only a handful of non-life-threatening injuries. This was truly miraculous, when considering there were 150 severely impacted properties, including 39 homes that were destroyed or deemed inhabitable.
In our immediate response and in the days that followed, the Committee Members and our township team divided up the endless list of “To Dos”. Each of us took on specific roles to drive support for those impacted and begin Harrison Township’s recovery. I took on helping to coordinate the many volunteer and donation initiatives being organized by residents, community organizations, and businesses.
One of our major challenges was where to store the physical donations, such as canned goods, clothes, and other emergency needs that were being donated at a heartwarming pace. Initially, we had identified the Clearview High School Gymnasium, but in less than 24 hours, we were out of room. Yes, in less than one day we filled a high school gym with donations!
As I think back on the response of the Harrison Township community, I’m reminded of a quote from Coretta Scott King:
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
This outpouring of support by our residents, organizations, and businesses, truly reflected the “greatness” of our community…often referred to as Harrison Strong! For me, and I am sure for many of you, it is this “greatness” that makes Harrison Township such a special place to live and raise a family. It is also a primary reason that I am so proud to serve in a leadership role for the last several years!
To update you on those most impacted by the tornado one-year later, we start by recognizing that the rebuilding has taken longer than expected, due to supply chain issues. Despite the supply challenges, I’m pleased to report that many of the 100+ severely impacted homes have been repaired, although there are some homes that still have work ahead. The first of the 39 total-rebuilds will be completed in the coming months, but several of the families who suffered a total loss may not be back in their homes until sometime in 2023.
So, today is not a day to look back on the anniversary of the Mullica Hill tornado as an event in our past…hopefully we can do that next year. Today is a day to remain steadfast in our support of those in need and to celebrate our community spirit. We remember the events of a year ago and the families who continue to be impacted and we continue to be with you! Let us also reflect on the compassion we showed for our fellow residents in need. After all, it is this caring and willingness to step up in support of our neighbors that “measures our greatness” and defines our sense of community…as always, Harrison Strong!
In the immediate aftermath of this event last year, Mayor Manzo pledged the support of our Committee and township resources for as long as it was needed, noting that many families would be dealing with upheaval and displacement well after the cleanup was done. I speak for the Mayor and Township Committee now in reaffirming our support, as needed, going forward.
As we enter this holiday weekend, let’s take a moment to think of our neighbors who are still displaced from the tornado that took place a year ago today.
On behalf of Mayor Manzo, Deputy Mayor Julie DeLaurentis, my fellow Committee Members Michelle Powell, and Adam Wingate, I wish you and your family a wonderful Labor Day Holiday.
Committeeman John Williams