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STREATOR – Monday, Christine Chalkey searched the country fields near her family’s North Streator home littered with debris from Sunday’s F-4 tornado that ripped through central Illinois. Among the items she found were a letter from St. Louis and a 16 x 20 photo of a child.


Mrs. Chalkey wrote on her Facebook page, “Don’t know if the photo is from someone local, but would like to identify to see how far it traveled along with the siding, insulation, flooring and clothing” she also found. Through various leads on Facebook, Mrs. Chalkey searched to find out more about the little boy and his status.

By Tuesday morning, through Facebook, Mrs. Chalkey had a name for the little boy in the photo. His name is Oliver Essig, and his family’ in Washington, Illinois – 192 miles away – was safe, but their home had been destroyed. Oliver is four years old and he has a twin sister and two brothers.

Chalkey found Oliver’s mom, Kirsten Bane Essig, who wrote these words on Facebook:

“Tonight I am reflecting on the last 36 hours of my life. I want to thank God for saving our lives. It is a miracle that we all survived. A miracle!”

…I want to just voice my love and appreciation for my husband, Dustin Essig… Who saved mine and Oliver’s life. His fast thinking truly saved us from turning directly into the tornado.”

And our son, Winston, is a true hero! He protected and saved Vivian and Hudson’s lives. He is wise and brave beyond his years. So thankful, grateful and proud!”

Mrs. Chalkey plans to follow up with the Essigs, she wrote on Facebook page. “I am hoping to meet them. Life is so fragile….and makes you realize how precious each day we have here on this earth is.”

A 2012 photo of the Essig Family who survived the Washington Illinois tornado Sunday


A big shout out to our friends at Illinois Review for letting us share this story with our readers.

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