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A Plastic-covered roofs in the Linwood community Kes Gilhome FEATURE 10 After the Storm BY P.A. HUMPHREY rf welve-year-old Juan Hernandez curled up in his bedroom closet as a tornado slammed into his family’s small, frame house in the Linwood neighborhood just west of downtown Fort Worth. His mom, dad, and two brothers only made it as far as the hallway, where they huddled together as the house shook, electric lines snapped, and tiles flew off of the roof Barely a month had passed since they’d sunk their entire life’s savings, $2,000, into a down payment on the house. Now it seemed the house wouldn’t last the night. “I thought, This is it. It’s going to get us,” Juan remembers. “I thought we were gonna die.” A few doors away, the Ruiz family gathered close in the living room, as the funnel cloud picked up the roof over their heads and plunked it back down again, slightly off kilter. Antonio Ruiz pushed against the front door to keep it from blowing open. Another neighbor, Joe Garza, was driving home from work on Interstate 30 and arrived in downtown Fort Worth just minutes after the tornado hit. He rushed home, only to find the roof caved in, a support beam snapped in two, the furniture water-logged, and his wife and four children missing, He later located them at a church where several residents had taken shelter. “I was afraid they all were dead,” he said. The frightful memories of that evening, March 28, when the tornado dropped from the clouds and ripped through Fort Worth, have been hard to dispel for these Linwood residents. The horror of almost having their homes destroyed around them, however, was only the beginning of the nightmare. What has been more de moralizing for them and dozens of their neighbors, they say, is living for months with plastic-covered roofs, boarded-up windows, and hole-pocked walls, while the feds, the state, the insurance companies, and the landlords who hold the deeds to their homes duel over who is responsible for repairing them. The twister came out of the west, touching down at Lake Worth and River Oaks before smashing into the city’s cultural district, downtown office buildings, and the neighborhoods in between. Another twister, born of the first, headed east to Arlington, where several homes were damaged or destroyed. Five people were killed by the storm. The ravaged areas were declared a federal disaster zone and the Federal Emer ministration arrived to process claims. In the days after, city lead ership and the downtown business establishment did their best to project an image of a city rallying itself in the face of adversity. Yet from the out set, city authorities seemed more concerned with the damage to downtown thousands of glass windows were shattered in banks and office buildingsthan with the adjacent neighborhoods, like Linwood, whose resi dents were chiefly low in come and minority. “My major concern is the damage done to the business com munity,” Mayor Kenneth Barr declared. Intent on putting a happy face on the mess and making sure visi tors continued to bring their money into downtown nightspots, restaurants, and theaters, downtown real es tate owners and City Hall 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 17, 2000