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Amish help neighbors

Duane Whitaker and his family had no idea about the extent of tornado damage all over Kansas and Missouri.


Duane Whitaker and his family had no idea about the extent of tornado damage all over Kansas and Missouri. All they knew is that their neighbors down the road incurred some serious damage, and that some of their fences were knocked down, the roof of an outbuilding got a little ripped up and one of their 600-gallon water tanks blew a quarter-mile down the road.

Whitaker estimated the damage at between two and three thousand dollars, but he didn't seem too concerned about it. ("A lot of clean-up work and so forth" was how he succinctly described it.)

Whitaker, however, has an excuse for being mostly unaware of current events; he lacks most of the technological conveniences of modern civilization, such as a television, a radio or a car. The Whitakers live a simple agrarian existence here as part of a small Amish community that lives in the farmland just south of Humansville.

The family is one of 22 Amish families in the area that have lived here for 15 years. Whitaker himself originally came from Indiana, and others came from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Michigan. ("We're a collection from all over," he said.) Whitaker and his wife have seven kids, ranging in age from four months to 12 years.

When the tornado came through on May 4, the Whitakers just remained in their house. They didn't really have any other choice; they don't have a basement.

"We didn't have any where to go, so we just stayed in here," he said. "We were all right."

Whitaker did know that other people besides the Amish were affected by the tornado. For Whitaker runs a sheet metal and roofing shop, and plenty of people have come in to purchase materials.

But the damage to two families in the local Amish community was so severe that several van loads of Amish men came from Michigan to help with the repairs. A group of 25 showed up on Wednesday. Whitaker expected 50 more next week.

"The labor will probably be taken care of in a couple weeks' time," he said. "The Amish are pretty much able to help each other out."

Whitaker preferred to act as spokesman for the community, so "they can do their work" and "because we Amish are kind of camera-shy."

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