The unthinkable occurred one month and two days ago — Wednesday, April 27, 2011.
Yet its memories are hauntingly fresh, like yesterday. Its gaping wounds remain raw but the healing is under way thanks in full to the resolve of the human spirit to rebound, to restore and to resume a life of normalcy.
Since the day and night of that murderous wave of tornadoes and storms that claimed the lives of eight Bradley County residents and one out-of-state visitor, and which destroyed 285 homes and damaged more than 300 others, our community has reacted in a forward-looking mode.
We are cleaning.
We are restoring.
We are rebuilding.
We are redefining hope.
And we are doing it through a level of determination that a select number of communities can best understand — most recently Tuscaloosa, Ala., Apison, Tenn., Ringgold, Ga., and now Joplin, Mo.
It has been a fatiguing month, but our hometown has regained its footing. Far more detailed work lies ahead. We are told it could take from two to five years before our “new normalcy” is attained.
But our residents are determined. Our will is strong. And our cause is just.
Even as we move ahead into a future that literally our community will sculpt, we would be remiss in failing to acknowledge the first full month of work and the disaster that made it necessary.
Our newspaper is taking such an action.
We are documenting the events of April 27 and the aftermath of the tragedies through a special edition titled “Road to Recovery — The First 30 Days.” It is a consolidated look at our newspaper’s coverage of the travesty starting with Day One — April 27 — and the next month of restoration.
The 32-page edition includes a combination of previously unpublished articles and photographs telling the story of our community’s recovery, as well as selected pieces already printed over the past four weeks. These include news articles, features, disaster relief announcements, photographs and editorials. Their purpose is to present a collective portrait of our hometown’s recovery within a keepsake edition.
It will not be included as an inside section in one of our newspaper’s regular editions.
It can be purchased for a $1 donation at any of 17 distribution outlets provided by seven area financial institutions, United Way of Bradley County and at our 25th Street newspaper office. Our partners at AbitibiBowater Newsprint Calhoun Operations have contributed the newsprint. Jerry Neely at Neeling Printing graciously designed our signs that are being used at the distribution sites.
All sales proceeds will go to the new Cleveland-Bradley Disaster Relief Fund.
Distribution outlets include all Bradley County branches of Bank of Cleveland, Southern Heritage Bank, United Community Bank, Athens Federal Community Bank, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, Andrew Johnson Bank and Bowater Credit Union, as well as the United Way office in downtown Cleveland.
“Road to Recovery — The First 30 Days” is a collaborative effort.
It is a memorial to the innocent lives that were taken.
It is a remembrance of heroism in its finest hour.
It is a tribute to a humanitarian spirit best defined by people who are at their best when times are at their worst.
It is a gift to community, one that salutes resilience in the face of adversity.
We encourage you to pick up a copy.
It is an investment in community.
It is a belief in our future.