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MUSCATINE, Iowa —  The  tornado that raged through Muscatine on Friday afternoon destroyed the newly built playground behind Shawna Martin’s Muscatine daycare center.

But the building that housed the 83 children she was caring for remained virtually untouched.

“None of them were hurt,” said Martin’s father, Darrell Saultz, as he stood outside Happy Home Daycare around 2:30 p.m., two hours after the storm had passed. “They all went where they were supposed to.”

Martin said she, her 14 staff members and four parents who came to the center when they learned about the storm, took her students to the laundry room and three bathrooms in the building. None of those rooms have windows, she said, making injuries from flying glass much less likely.

“We’d like to thank all those people for going to their designated area,” said Saultz.

“We practice a fire drill every month,” said Martin. “But I didn’t think we’d have to use it.”

Martin said the children were napping when one of her staff members came in from lunch around 12:20 p.m. and told her the emergency sirens were going off.

Five minutes later, the storm came through, quickly picking and choosing the areas it would destroy. Within a minute, the wind had leveled a building at the Department of Transportation located right next to Martin’s business and took out the Happy Home Daycare playground.

The daycare center shuddered and shook, but the storm passed it by.

“This used to be a church,” said Martin. “It was called Faith Chapel. So I think God was watching over them. Everything good happened.”

Martin turned her attention to the multicolored heaps of damaged playground equipment.

“I had a playhouse here,” she said. “Where is it?”

Martin said her father had just finished building the customized playground this week. Insurance may help her recover the cost of her equipment, but her father’s time can’t be bought back, she said.

“He worked so hard on this,” said Martin.

Saultz smiled.

“As long as everyone’s OK, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Everything is rebuildable.”

Martin agreed.

“You can’t buy a life,” she said.

Contact Cynthia Beaudette at (563) 263-2331, Ext. 323, or cynthia.beaudette@muscatinejournal.com. Comment on this story at qctimes.com.

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