Cleveland Net, a group of pastors, government officials, business persons and professionals in Cleveland and surrounding areas is planning the communitywide celebration called RECOVERY 2012.
Iris Ray said the 90-minute event is envisioned as an evening when the community will gather as a whole to give thanks for all God has done to restore Bradley County from the blight of last year’s tornadoes. It will also be a time of recognition for community members involved in the recovery and restoration process.
“We will continue blessing those families who have experienced loss through the catastrophic events of last April 27,” she said.
Pastor Gary Sears said Wednesday during the first planning session for the event there are some victims who do not want any publicity at all and “some of them quite frankly are dealing with the loss and asking why did God let this happen? They are still struggling with that and their kids immediately panic every time a cloud comes up or the radio says there may be a storm.
“It’s going to be an entirely different issue altogether for them than it is for us. Thank God we made it through a year.”
Long-Term Recovery Organization Case Manager Lisa Mantooth said she has been in contact with almost all of the families who suffered the death of a family member.
“I don’t expect to see them coming,” she said. “I know three mothers who are gone and their children are aching.”
Sears said losing a home can also be devastating and though some families might have a better home now than before the storms, they lost photos and other memorabilia that can never be replaced.
“I know loss,” he said. “I don’t know total loss. Those families, while maybe not marred, they are scarred and they will wear those scars for the rest of their lives.”
He said there is a grief cycle of a year during which events occur for the first time.
“We all used to go to Grandma’s for Easter, anniversaries, birthdays and all of those things we’ve gone through for the first time [since] April 27,” he said. “For those who lost loved ones to death, that’s a yearly cycle of days and dates of things.”
Mantooth said there are families who still cannot bear to return to their old homes.
“There are houses in Bradley County that look exactly like they did on April 28,” she said of one family who all survived, but lost their home. “There are still two chairs sitting at the end of a driveway that haven’t been touched — they cannot go back, just cannot go back.”
It is very difficult, she said.
Sears said it is important to keep the original vision as a celebration that the community is a year removed from that day, yet still be sensitive to the families “who five years from now, may not be removed from this. While we celebrate and praise God for his covering of this community, and it was a covering — but [it’s also important] to remember family members, friends and parts of this community you drive through. Continue lifting up prayers for them because many of them for years down the road will still be reliving the experience.”