Vilonia Residents Turning Tragedy Into Opportunity

VILONIA, AR - It's a busy day at the Hwy 64 Citgo.

One of the only businesses open in the heart of Vilonia eight weeks after a deadly tornado shut down most of the city.

Buildings, trees people shopping in buildings they're not there anymore.

Outside, clear slabs and lingering debris litter the main thoroughfare.

"You miss seeing all the buildings, they aren't there anymore," says Patricia Watson.

It's a sad sight but some view the clean slate as an opportunity.

"Make it Main Street instead of Highway 64 as it's always been," says Marty Knight.

Lifelong resident Marty Knight is rounding up a group of architects as well as business and home owners to share ideas and create a new vision for Vilonia.

The idea is to strike while much of Main Street is still empty maybe people want to see restaurant, businesses matching construction that says this is downtown.

The April 27 storm damaged or destroyed more than 50 businesses in the city.

Before people start rebuilding, Knight is inviting them to collaborate with his grassroots group, Rebuild Vilonia.

"We've had a lot of neat ideas for an amphitheater, farmers market parks, some type of memorial for people who lost their lives a lot of great ideas," says Marty Knight.

Hit by the last two tornadoes, Maggie Caro has a few suggestions of her own.

"They want to see Vilonia sidewalks plants things so people can come here and say this is downtown Vilonia wow we want to go back there,"

They hope to make the most of this clean slate, praying they don't get another like this again.

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