92.7FM | Norfolk, Nebraska

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Pilger Man Risks Life for Co-Workers During Tornado

Gene Willers relives waiting the storm out alone in the basement

Tornadoes ripped Western Bank in half

The American Flag waving above a debris pile at Pilger

The American flag waves proudly at Pilger, Nebraska less than 24 hours after two tornadoes devastated the small town. A crisis always demands a call to action, and for one Pilger man that was to risk his life to save others amidst the crisis.

Nine were at Midwest Bank when the tornadoes hit Pilger, but only eight were able to seek refuge.

Gene Willers, Pilger Midwest Bank President: "The only thing that was really secure was the vault. We determined that you can't lock the vault from the inside so I had the other eight go in and I locked the vault from the outside and then I went down into the cellar."

Peggy Brabec: "He (Willers) was there the whole time. He was our lifesaver. He actually put our lives (in the vault) to save us, and then he went down (to the basement)."

While in the basement Willers did not think he would make it through the storm.

Gene Willers: "It was just deathly quiet, you could hear the sirens going off. Our batteries were beeping because the electricity was off. It was just pitch black, and I was by myself just preparing for the worst. I've said to others that I didn't plan on coming out."

Willers' decision wasn't a hard one as far as he's concerned.

Gene Willers: "Were a small staff, a close staff. Its family. That's how we feel about each other and that's how we treat each other. We all hugged and were darn glad to see everybody alive."

Midwest Bank has set up a donation fund with all proceeds going to the Pilger Community Development Fund to aid in the town's recovery process.

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