After the tornado, hope arrives Support: Carolyn and Ernest Ganoe learn a lesson about kindness and generosity after their barn was destroyed.


FINZEL -- The roar of the tornado had passed. Carolyn Ganoe emerged from her basement corner and looked out the window just as a flash of lightning lighted the dark, rainy sky. In that split second, she was shocked to see that most of the dairy farm's 300-foot-long barn was gone.

The next shock, almost as great, came the morning after the June 2 storm.

"We couldn't believe what we were seeing," Ganoe said Thursday. As she and her husband, Ernest, watched, a convoy of vehicles -- mostly pickup trucks -- wound along Gravel Hill Road toward their farm in this small Garrett County town near the Pennsylvania line.

It was an outpouring of aid from friends, friends of friends, neighbors, even total strangers, who had heard of the Ganoe family's plight and came to help. It's not something you see every day.

There was an army of men, women and children. Maybe 100 people. Maybe more.

The men had tool belts strapped to their waists. They carried claw hammers, tape measures, levels, saws, squares and wrecking bars. They their work gloves.

Some brought reciprocating saws, gas-powered generators and compressors to run pneumatic nailers.

Others brought food.

Families came, and children helped their parents pick up debris -- chunks of wood and pieces of metal scattered up to a mile.

By noon the day after the storm, the Ganoes' lawn was full of vehicles. Vehicles were parked on both sides of the road and in part of a field.

"It was overwhelming," said Carolyn Ganoe, 64. "All we hear on the news is the bad, bad, bad. There are a lot of good people in this world. Something like this surely renews your faith in mankind."

Ernest Ganoe, 68, and the more reserved member of the family, said he had never seen anything like this. "It was so emotional," he said as he leaned against the back of a Chevy pickup containing a portable bench saw. "I can't describe what it does to you."

He acknowledged shedding a few tears.

"We didn't ask for help," said Dan Ganoe, 36, who works at his parents' farm but lives three miles away. "People just showed up on their own. They started coming at daybreak the morning after the storm."

One of the first to arrive was David Klink, the loan officer at the Farmers & Merchants Bank & Trust office in Frostburg. "He was out in the pasture with a pickup truck and a chain saw removing wild cherry trees the storm had scattered over the field," said Dan Ganoe. "When the leaves begin to wilt, they are poisonous for the cows."

Some, including Jeff Spiker and Chris Rowe, took unscheduled vacations to provide a helping hand.

Mennonite farmers, some from as far away as Lancaster County, Pa., turned out in force to offer their construction skills.

Others, such as Matthew Petersheim, a 21-year-old construction worker from Oakland, took time off from his job without pay. As he squatted on a cinder block to eat his lunch Thursday, more than a week after the storm hit, he said: "I've been setting trusses, putting on the roof and pouring concrete.

"If it happened to our farm, I know people would pitch in. You know, there's more to life than taking care of yourself," he said.

Bruce Martin of Meyersdale, Pa., was there with his sons Jonathan, 16, Joseph, 13, and Joshua, 10, and had been since Wednesday.

While Martin nailed structure framing into place, the boys carried lumber, 2-by-4s and 2-by-6s, from a bench saw to work stations. "I'm tired," Jonathan told his father, "but it sure feels good to help somebody in need of help."

Jim Simms and Bill Knepp of the University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension Service office in Oakland became carpenters for the day as they nailed sections of barn metal roofing into place.

Feeding the work crews was another major undertaking shared by various groups.

"The bank [Farmers & Merchants] brought food the first day," said Carolyn Ganoe. "They showed up with enough for 35 people. When they saw that was not nearly enough, they went back for more."

She said women from the Mennonite Disaster Service have been providing many of the meals for the 50 to 60 workers who continue to show up every day, even though the Ganoes aren't Mennonite.

Dick Wiggin, a retired police officer from Washington, D.C., showed up Thursday morning with a load of goodies in the trunk of his Thunderbird. "Hi," he said, extending his hand to Carolyn Ganoe. "I'm here on behalf of Emmanuel United Methodist Church [in Frostburg]. We'd like to help."

Pat Crowe walked by with containers of slaw, baked beans and an applesauce cake.

By noon Thursday, a smorgasbord was laid out on the tailgates of pickup trucks and a picnic table.

It all started the night of June 2, when a tornado ripped through the outskirts of this rural town. Carolyn Ganoe will never forget that night. The roar of the wind. The clanging of the metal garage doors not far from the section of the basement where she and her 70-year-old neighbor, Ruth Yutzy, had taken refuge when they heard the storm approaching.

"We kneeled down and hugged and prayed to God to spare us," she said.

It was over in 30 seconds, but it was a half-minute of sheer terror.

In the eerie silence that followed, Carolyn Ganoe first saw the damage to the barn.

Her immediate concern was for her family, Ernest, Dan and her 12-year-old grandson, Danny.

They were in the barn milking their herd of 135 cows.

Racing out to the barn, guided through darkness and rain by the continuing flashes of lightning, she found her family safe.

Her relief was soon replaced by cold economic reality. The insurance would not cover rebuilding of the barn, and without a barn they could not continue in business.

As the family and a few friends the Ganoes called worked through the night to free the cows from the debris of the collapsed roof, the Ganoes faced the likelihood of having to sell their herd and go out of business, losing all they had built up over 43 years, a farm that had supported three generations.

Those fears didn't last long.

Carolyn Ganoe said that 95 percent of the labor for the rebuilding has been free. Some materials were donated.

"We'll have a loss," she said, but the community made the difference between bankruptcy and saving the farm.

When Ernest Ganoe was asked what he had told the workers, he responded: "What can you say? 'Thanks' is not adequate. Not nearly adequate."

"We've been amazed," his wife said. "It has been almost like we are spellbound. People cried when we hugged them. They felt our hurt. Some big, grown men cried."

Dick Ganoe, Ernest's brother, put down his hammer for a minute, looked at the flurry of construction activity and said: "This is the beautiful part of a sad situation."

Pub Date: 6/14/98

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