ROWLETT, Texas – A tornado couldn’t tear it down. A cutting torch, steel cables, a backhoe tractor and eight hours of hard labor could.
So by early Monday afternoon the tornado-ravaged water tower that stood as a symbol of resiliency and strength in Rowlett finally tumbled to the ground.
The water tower on Martha Lane was brought down more than a year and a month after the December 26, 2015 tornado that damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and left the water tower inoperable. Built in 1980 the 16-story tower was declared unfixable and brought down with a loud unceremonious thud onto a pile of dirt excavated to soften its fall.
Onlookers, many of them tornado survivors, pulled up lawn chairs to watch the tower come down.
Bonne Rangel was one of them, adorned in matching t-shirts with a friend: t-shirts with a silhouette of the water tower and the words “And Still We Stand.” To them the Rowlett water tower was a monument to the resiliency and fighting spirit of this neighborhood.
"It survived the tornado, and it just stands as a symbol of strength for all of us in the neighborhood that survived the tornado,” Rangel said, admitting she hated to see that symbol destroyed.
"When the tornado came through here you know that tower stood strong. It's pretty remarkable that it stood under all those winds,” said Rowlett neighbor Janice Bowen.
Around it, much has been repaired. City official say that of 1,300 damaged or destroyed homes 1,200 have been rebuilt. But that leaves 100 empty lots, concrete slabs, and other evidence that Rowlett still has many months, if not years to recoup all that was lost.
"It's nice to see houses being built again,” Bowen said. “But it’s sad there were a couple of houses there and they’re gone,” she said of the immediate area around the tower. “But it’s coming back, so that's a good thing."
Paul Daniel brought his daughter Nora, hoping to see something unusual and help explain all this destruction, carefully, to his little girl.
"I was trying to explain the tornado to her this morning, and I think I'm going to need some video to understand the gravity of what happened here."
Now on the ground, after a groaning fall that ended with a thud, the tower will be cut into salvage scrap. But some of the metal, including the words “Rowlett” are scheduled to be used for art installations to honor the victims and the spirit of the survivors.