MONSON, Mass. — Monson homeowner Russ Bressette was in his house when a tornado literally blew it away.
It was June 1, 2011. The day the most destructive tornado outbreak to hit New England in sixty years, tore through 19 communities along the Massachusetts Turnpike.
It left Bressette with nothing.
FOX25 Chief Meteorologist Kevin Lemanowicz visited with Bressette at his home just one year after the tornado hit. Five years later, Kevin went back and saw a different scene.
“There was nothing here when I came last time. Nothing. Not even a blade of grass," he said.
Five years and a lot of work later there's hope.
"I built everything and I have a nice place a beautiful place - happy that the tornado didn’t take me out. I planted apple trees in the back, rhubarb, all my blueberry bushes, and we go from here," Bressette said.
“I never found my house. But I'm the luckiest guy in the world because I'm alive. Not a lot of people live through a tornado," he said.
Bressette wasn't the only one who had to rebuild. Dozens of communities in the path of the tornado had to as well, including the town of Monson.
The EF3 tornado began in Westfield at approximately 4:17 p.m. in the Munger Hill Section. It then traveled 39 miles before lifting in Charlton at approximately 5:27 p.m. Wind speeds reached 160 miles per hour, hail stones 2 inches in diameter fell, and the tornado was a half-mile wide.
The EF3 tornado destroyed thousands of homes through the 19 communities it touched, injured hundreds and took three lives.
Dan LaRoche who managed Monson's disaster recovery said five years later, over 95 percent of the buildings have been rebuilt.
The FOX25 SkyVision Drone proves it.
From the leaves on the trees once bare and broken, to the grass once barren, the town has healed, with time, and with help.
"It was a federal disaster area which allowed federal funds to come in and the state came in with additional funding. I think the town has really come a long way i think we're looking to put this behind us now and looking towards the future post-tornado," LaRoche said.
In his new home, with a new yard and a new look on life Bressette is surrounded by neighbors he now calls family.
"We're all just happy to be alive. You look back and say you know we had to learn something from that and we did, we really did," he said.
It cost the town of Monson about $28-million in relief funds to get back on their feet after the tornado hit five years ago.
>>LEARN MORE: Tornado warning signs
5 Year Anniversary of the Deadly New England Tornadoes
It has been 5 years since one of the most destructive tornado outbreaks in New England history. Kevin Lemanowicz FOX25 takes a look back at June 1, 2011. What do you remember?Posted by Boston 25 News on Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Bressette and his wife lived in their home on that land since 1968, but his wife passed away 6 months before the tornado hit. After it blew his home away, he realized he lost her wedding ring.
“I lost my wife’s diamond ring, because she just passed away 6 months before I used to carry it around with me and talk to her," he said.
Thankfully, he said, the ring turned up in his driveway. Watch the video below to hear Bressette's story for yourself.
Cox Media Group