Tribute underway to honor victims of Rowlett tornado

Plans are moving forward on a tribute to those impacted by last December's deadly tornado in Rowlett.

ROWLETT-- Plans are moving forward on a tribute to those impacted by last December's deadly tornado in Rowlett.

A massive statue was created by a local artist, and the City hopes that by honoring the damage, it can help the community move past the tragic storm.

Troy Connaster of Rowlett is a deck builder who loves the work of Escher and Monet. His newest project is a tribute to the strength the community showed after a tornado rolled through town in the day after Christmas.

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Plans for the statue were approved by the full city council on July 12. The City is currently developing plans for the rest of Schrade Bluebonnet Park, which is currently undeveloped.

"This is my representation of how we get through it. People can come reflect, remember what went on, not dwell on it and move it," Connaster said.

His work depicts a phoenix with its wings spread, rising not from ashes but the path of a tornado.

"We had some friends that lived across the street and they don't live there anymore," Connaster said. "We pulled their kids and them out from underneath their stairway.. That's stuff you don't forget, so this means a lot to us."

Many have moved on by moving out of Rowlett. Others just can't do that.

People like Jim Katzenberger.

He lives in the shadow of the water tower that was damaged by the storm.

"I'm hoping that it will remind people of what happened here, because you know five to 10 years from now you're not going to be able to find much of a trace," he said.

Katzenberger is also a member of the City of Rowlett's Arts and Humanities Commission. He's worked with Connaster to make the memorial a reality.

Last month the City signed off on the $65,000 project. A work in progress that's news to many who live nearby.

"I think it's a good idea. I was there when it hit and it was very traumatic. I can't tell you what it's like to go through something like that," said Michael Shannon.

Iiana Davila also lives nearby.

"I think it looks great. It's going to look phenomenal. I can't wait to actually see it," she said.

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Soon, the sketch will come to life in a statue that's larger than life. Built by pieces of the very water tower that once stood strong as the center of town. A permanent reminder of how strong a community can be.