Dorsal closure in Drosophila is a model system for cell sheet morphogenesis and wound healing. During closure two sheets of lateral epidermis move dorsally to close over the amnioserosa and form a continuous epidermis. Forces from the amnioserosa and actomyosin-rich, supracellular purse strings at the leading edges of these lateral epidermal sheets drive closure. Purse strings generate the largest force for closure and occur during development and wound healing throughout phylogeny. We use laser microsurgery to remove some or all of the purse strings from developing embryos. Free edges produced by surgery undergo characteristic responses as follows. Intact cells in the free edges, which previously had no purse string, recoil away from the incision and rapidly assemble new, secondary purse strings. Next, recoil slows, then pauses at a turning point. Following a brief delay, closure resumes and is powered to completion by the secondary purse strings. We confirm that the assembly of the secondary purse strings requires RhoA. We show that alpha-actinin alternates with nonmuscle myosin II along purse strings and requires nonmuscle myosin II for its localization. Together our data demonstrate that purse strings are renewable resources that contribute to the robust and resilient nature of closure.