In the six days the team was in the area, they went all over the county and worked in 14 disaster areas, including the Upper River Road, Blair Road and Apison (in Hamilton County).
Jimmy Yarber, who lived on Lead Valley Road, lost his house and barns. Wright drove by and saw the damage, but it was several weeks before she saw someone on the property.
When she did get a chance to talk with Yarber, he was OK, he said, but very cautious. Another team, he said, told him they were going to help, but didn’t come back, so he was reluctant to allow anyone on his property.
Wright kept trying to convince him they were legitimate, and after three times, Yarber realized the team was really wanting to help. The team began working to tear down the remainder of the house and salvaging what they could. Much had to be done before the rebuild could begin utilizing the skilled labor, so the workers humbled themselves to search the dirt and do what they could.
They marked out a grid on the ground to search for smaller items, finding a class ring which belong to a nephew a half mile down the road. And the group had a surprise ready for Yarber when they returned.
During the search in the dirt and trash on that first trip, they had gathered bits of brick, broken dishes and glass, which was made into a beautiful mosaic. One piece was thought to be a venetian blind piece, but on closer examination, it was revealed to be from a broken mushroom canister in the kitchen. Another mystery was solved about the pieces showing flowers. Yarber remembered a plate lunch was brought to him on the plate — something that would remind him of people’s kindness.
Wright said seeing the mosaic was exciting — knowing that the mosaic held a memory of his life “before the tornado.”
The Carson-Newman College and Tyner United Methodist Church finished a ramp for a resident and another group planted flowers and did landscaping around the ramp.
A group from Tampa, Fla., is taking its fall break to come in November. The New Jersey team will come back in the summer. Churches are calling, she said, to set up mission trips and help with the rebuild.
“There is still a lot more to do,” she said. “We’re putting on roofs and doing repairs and clearing sites — but rebuilding is on the agenda for when the teams return for the summer.
If anyone would like to help in the recovery efforts, contact Wright at 423-650-5181 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.