Pilger middle school

DEBRA NELSON, a middle school teacher with the Omaha public schools, stands on mangled playground equipment to take a photo of the middle school in Pilger Wednesday morning.

PILGER — The Middle School here always had the same old scoreboard. The one with a big analog clock in the middle and a red horn sticking out from the bottom.

But instead of hanging proudly on the gym wall like it had done all those years, it now sits next to remnants of playground toys like a sideways basketball hoop.

All of which could be found outside the middle school building that was virtually destroyed by the tornadoes that ripped through the town Monday afternoon.

Kurt Rathke, whose mother and children all attended classes in the building over the years, said it was time to move the scoreboard to a safe place for posterity’s sake.

"This is important," Rathke said. "There's a lot of history here."

In recent years, fifth- and sixth-graders attended the school in Pilger with about 30 kids in each class.

Barbara Wolverton, who had taught at the school for six years, said that although it was an older building, it was beautiful and kept in pristine condition.

"People took pride in this school," she said. "The students loved it here."

Wolverton went inside the building Wednesday morning during recovery efforts in the town to further assess the damage.

There wasn't much to see.

"My room and my desk, they're completely gone," she said with tears in her eyes.

Wolverton is thankful her house was one of the lucky ones ignored by the tornadoes, but she said it ripped her heart out to see the school so damaged.

"I went inside with my three daughters this morning and said good-bye," she said.

Volunteers are cleaning up the school grounds now, but Rathke is working in the hopes of a new school building in the future.

"Today, it's beyond imagination," he said. "But each day, it's going to get better."