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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Harrisburg tornado leave church and rectory in ruins, prized altar intact

  • RIDGWAY -- St. Joseph's Catholic Church is Ridgway's most dramatic example of the force of Wednesday morning's tornado. Insulation hangs from trees, blue tarps cover roofs and trees and signs are bent and twisted, but the church is reduced to a brick rubble with a steeple and altar still standing.

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  • St. Joseph's Catholic Church is Ridgway's most dramatic example of the force of Wednesday morning's tornado.
    Insulation hangs from trees, blue tarps cover roofs and trees and signs are bent and twisted, but the church is reduced to a brick rubble with a steeple and altar still standing.
    Against the rear wall stands the church's prize -- the marble altar -- which has apparently been unharmed.
    The altar is over 100 years old of Italian Carrara marble. It was brought in by barge, according to pastor the Rev. Steven Beatty.
    "As far as we can tell it's hard to find a scratch on it," Beatty said.
    A crane operator was working at the church removing large debris with the eventual goal of removing the altar safely.
    "Today we are covering it for weather," Beatty said.
    Marble experts are coming to dismantle the altar and store it until the church is reconstructed, Beatty said.
    Beatty was in the rectory adjoining the church when the tornado struck. He woke to the sound of strong wind that he described as producing a ripping sound. He knew he had to get downstairs. The windows began popping and Beatty struggled to get shoes on without cutting himself on the broken glass. Then he went for his raincoat.
    "It kind of dawned on me I wasn't supposed to be getting wet in the house," Beatty said.
    He made his way down the stair landing to find there was a wall blocking his path.
    Beatty went around the block to check on neighbors when he noticed the silhouette of the church appeared different than normal. That was when it dawned on him the church built in 1890 had crumbled.
    Though the church was destroyed and the parishioners are saddened, Beatty said the real story is finding none of them seriously hurt.
    "We were very fortunate," he said.
     

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