Staggered but not beaten by last week’s unprecedented wave of tornado-spawning storms that took nine innocent lives, our residents are again stepping up and taking charge of their own futures while providing humane care and comforting arms for those most savagely impacted.
Response since last Wednesday’s terror inarguably has been the most unified since our community was plundered by its last meteorological disaster — the “Blizzard of ’93.”
Nothing has changed in 18 years.
Bradley County residents continue to reach out to others as their brother’s keeper.
All are working in unison in a shared cause, a people cause like never before.
Through countless acts of humanitarianism and volunteerism since last week’s disaster, all have guided their priorities through a people-first code of conduct.
All except a few.
To those few the remainder of this message is directed.
We speak of the selfish, the misguided and the cruel imbeciles who choose to take advantage of the misfortunes of others.
We refer to those who loot.
The crime itself is bad enough but when perpetrators waste little time in robbing those whose homes and businesses have been badly damaged or destroyed by Mother Nature’s unrestrained fury, it is inexcusable and to some degree unforgivable.
On our front page in Monday’s edition, the Cleveland Daily Banner reported on the arrests of four individuals — two adults and two juveniles — who were charged by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office with looting from a severely storm-damaged home off of Dalton Pike.
Looting was also attempted at A.J.’s Market in the same area.
One of the incidents was first reported by Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency officers who were patrolling the area and found three individuals preparing to take items from the devastated business. TWRA officers followed exact protocol and contacted BCSO which launched an immediate investigation. Their work recovered a backpack sprayer which had been stolen from a storm-ravaged house on Archer Lane. As reported in our article, the sprayer was found in the home of a Blythe Avenue resident.
The quick work by TWRA and professional follow-up by BCSO investigators landed the arrests of four people whose mindless actions in a time of unprecedented community disaster have labeled them with a mind-set like that of a slug.
Or should we say thug?
By any other name we will say this to them and to all who would blindly follow their unthinking path.
Those arrested and charged with such foolishness during our community’s disaster recovery will find your faces and your stories published prominently on our front page.
This is not a warning.
This is not a threat.
It is a promise.
We remind you of these heartbreaking facts lest you forget the horrors of last Wednesday.
Nine innocent people in this community died.
At least 285 homes were destroyed.
At least 195 homes suffered major damage and 176 minor damage.
These numbers are expected to increase.
Bradley County residents were undeservedly assaulted by multiple tornadoes, some rated as EF-4s. Yet in the face of this inhumanity you would dare take advantage of the helpless? Bradley County deserves much better.
Looting is not murder. It is not armed robbery. Nor is it violence against a child or a woman.
But it is just as despicable.