On March 29th, an F3 tornado ripped through St. Peter. Lives were lost and millions of dollars in damage sustained. Many of the prominent spots in town were hard hit: almost all the buildings at Gustavus Adolphus College were destroyed, St. Peter's Catholic Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church were blown down as was the Arts and Heritage Center and the Saint Peter Community Center. At the time, St. Peter City Administrator Todd Prafke was only four months on the job.  
 
"Everybody in St. Peter has a tornado story. Some people have a couple stories in fact, I'm no different in that. I have my personal story and I have my professional story," St. Peter City Administrator Todd Prafke said.
 
But Todd Prafke doesn't want to share his story. When the tornado struck it hit the entire community and that's where he says the real story is.
 
"It is unbelievably fantastic to see how a community can come together and see what people can do and see what can happen where there's a decision to get back up off the mat. It's that resiliency and that ability to now think about partners and how we work together where before the tornado maybe we didn't have to, right after the tornado we had to," Prafke added.
 
Many came to assist following the tornado, not only in the direct aftermath as an emergency response, but in the days and weeks following. To do things like rake yards or help people move their belongings to temporary housing. Especially important, returning the town to its signature landscape.
 
"All kinds of experts came to help us in rebuilding. People from the state historical society, in the downtown we have some homes that are so historic to help people really figure out how to rebuild that was the best way, how to maintain that historical integrity," Prafke said.
 
That includes re-introducing a gathering place, the St. Peter Community Center. Originally, the 1926 high school was lost in the tornado.
 
"The council at the time that it was decided had opportunities to build it outside on the edge of town where there was lots of space and all those things but it was really a decision that was made to keep it in the core of the community so that people could get there easily so they could walk to it and so it really did represent that hub and where our community is," said Prafke.
 
Three years after the tornado St. Peter reported its population had grown by 2 percent, an unusual feat for a town hit by natural disaster.
 
"I don't know what normal is exactly anymore. An event like that changes you, it changes your community forever and so it's hard to know what the path of normal is after that but I think we've done better than most communities that have suffered this kind of scale of disaster in our recovery has been much quicker than most and that's because of a resiliency in the community and because of all the people that came and helped us out," Prafke said.
 
This Thursday, on the twenty year anniversary at St. Peter High School the city will come together to remember the town and those lost to celebrate how far they've came and to thank those who helped them get here.


--KEYC News 12