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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

After Deadly Storms And Exhausting Rebuild, A Rowlett Couple Moves Back Home

Lara Solt
KERA News special contributor
Alfredo Fowler-Rainone, right, and Anthony Fowler-Rainone, left, have moved back into their home.

Four families on the financial edge are still struggling to get past last year’s Christmas weekend tornadoes.

It took 10 long months to put Alfredo and Anthony Fowler-Rainone’s home back together. They waited out the construction in a North Dallas hotel with their three dogs. Now, they’ve moved back in — and, a year after the tornado, they barely recognize their neighborhood.

On Dec. 26 last year, a tornado tore through Rowlett, ripping apart houses and destroying businesses. Since then, Anthony Fowler-Rainone has watched the houses in his neighborhood go through several phases of being rebuilt — or not.

He’s lived on this block for more than 30 years. A decade ago, his husband Alfredo joined him. The tornado changed a lot.

“There is very little resemblance here,” Anthony says. “Very few of the same people are here as a matter of fact.”

A frustrating process

That’s because so many families opted not to rebuild, and instead, decided to sell. About halfway through the construction on their house, Alfredo wondered if they should have done the same thing.

“Then I got to the point where I was like we should’ve just sold the lot and moved on,” Alfredo says. I mean, it felt like we were never going to get in here again.”

They did, and just a few weeks after getting the keys, the place looks great. Paintings on the wall, wedding photos perfectly arranged, crystal back in the cabinets. It’s pristine. You would never know how much was destroyed.

“There’s no way to even get it through anybody’s head how stressful this is,” Alfredo says.

Coping with 'recovery fatigue'

That’s what’s so draining about this kind of financial trauma, even with insurance. Each conversation with the company, each reimbursement claim, feels like a battle. Social worker Valencia Alexander explains why.

“You’re still depressed, you’re still dealing with the loss,” Alexander says. “And now you have to put up so much energy to find new furniture, and that’s not easy, and maybe dealing with other issues, maybe financial, because some things will be covered and some won’t.”

Alfredo and Anthony worked with eight different insurance adjusters during their rebuild. Construction hit a snag when some of their roofing shingles were stolen. Every step of the journey was hard.

Alexander, who works for the city of Dallas and helped with counseling efforts after the tornadoes, sees “recovery fatigue” all the time.

Credit Lara Solt / KERA news special contributor
KERA news special contributor
Homes across the street from Alfredo and Anthony Fowler-Rainone in Rowlett.

“They’re dealing with their own hurts while yet fighting for their rights,” she says.

And that’s what Alfredo and Anthony have been doing for nearly a year. They’re tired. Their budget is tight, and they’re still missing some of the beautiful things they gathered over their lifetime.

Explore the project

See photos of Alfredo and Anthony's newly restored home in Rowlett. And read stories of more recovering North Texas families in our series: Rebuilding A Life: A Year Later.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.