Employees of Midwest Bank in Pilger, NE see progress one year af - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Employees of Midwest Bank in Pilger, NE see progress one year after devastating tornado


Walking into the Midwest Bank in Wisner, Nebraska, nothing seems out of the ordinary.

But, if you take a second and look around, signs of the deadly June 16 tornado that ripped through Pilger, Nebraska are everywhere.

Much of the town was destroyed that day-including its bank, where many of the Wisner branch employees were working.

"We all prepare for a storm. We get the warnings, we are cautious, but I don't think a person believes it's going to happen to them," said Gene Willers, President of Midwest Bank.

Standing on the south side of the bank, Willers made a life-changing decision.

"I finally determined there was a tornado and that's when I told them to go into the vault," said Willers.

All six bank employees, a neighbor and a repairman headed to the vault.

But, there was just one problem.

The door couldn't be locked from the inside.

With just seconds to act, Willers chose to lock the vault door.

"I'm the president," said Willers. "I knew they would do what I told them to do..I'm in the crawl space down below...I prayed a lot...it sounded like two freight trains colliding above me."

Wind turned the century old building into rubble in just seconds.

But those inside we're still standing.

"You're forever grateful, no doubt about it. You always think about what he did and what could have happened,"said Blake Rotherham, a Midwest Bank employee.

Gene made a split-second decision and put his life at a greater risk to save his employees," said Stanton Co. Sheriff Mike Unger. "That's what mankind does."

One year later, it's impossible to miss the progress made by the town too tough to die.

Midwest plans to rebuild just down the block from where the old bank used to stand.

"It took seconds, mainly because we knew this community couldn't survive without the bank," said Willers.

While this year has been anything but ordinary, sometimes the grass is greener on the other side.

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