In two weeks, Cleveland and Bradley County residents will observe the one-year anniversary of the merciless outbreak of tornadoes across the Southeast on April 27, 2011, that spawned the destructive charge of at least five twisters through our community.
History has recorded the unbelievable destruction and the unprecedented heartbreak.
It is a safe assumption to make one year later that every resident of Cleveland and Bradley County — almost 100,000 — were impacted directly or indirectly, and physically, spiritually or emotionally, by the weather explosion that destroyed 285 homes, damaged hundreds of others, demolished or affected 10 businesses and killed nine people. And that was just in Bradley County.
Those who lived through the 12-hour nightmare will also remember the carnage in other communities — Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Ala., Ringgold, Ga., and our neighbor to the southwest, Apison.
Few communities were spared. Those in the paths of these monsters were devastated.
In remembrance of those who died in our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown, and in honor of the thousands of local heroes — individuals, civic groups, disaster relief agencies and faith-based organizations, among others — a variety of community events will be held on Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28.
Some are intended for community participation.
Some will be lower key, catering to a smaller crowd.
Some will honor the storm victims.
Some will pay tribute to the thousands of volunteers who truly made a difference in the community’s short- and long-term recovery.
Some will look at the progress we have made in rising from the ruins; some will look ahead at what remains to be accomplished.
Some will give thanks for homes and families who were protected; some will seek divine guidance, and spiritual support, for those who still grieve, those whose lives remain in recovery mode and those who still live in a world of despair, and perhaps denial, that such tragedy could befall the innocent.
Our newspaper is aware of several events already scheduled.
One is a gathering by the Bradley County Long-Term Recovery Organization to honor the staunch support and solid work ethic of thousands of volunteers who have played pivotal roles in helping our staggered community to its feet.
One is Recovery 2012, an evening of observance scheduled by Cleveland Net in the spacious Conn Center on the Lee University campus beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 27. The event is intended as a memorial for those lost and for salutes to all who have given their time and energy in making right what an angry Mother Nature made wrong.
One is Rock The Relief, a two-night concert scheduled Friday and Saturday night whose proceeds will support the Bradley County disaster recovery initiative.
One is a Cleveland Cleanup event being planned for Saturday, April 28, an initiative whose good work will reach out to the full community.
One is a brief candlelight ceremony to be held by Wayne Johnson and Rhonda Davenport, the husband and daughter of Evelyn Marie Johnson, one of nine whose life was taken by the savage storms. The vigil will be held Friday, April 27, at about 8:30 p.m. on the track at Waterville Elementary School. The memorial is open to the community because it will remember not only Evelyn Johnson, but all nine of the deceased. Information about this event can be found on the front page of today’s edition.
More events likely are in the planning. Those who want to invite the community are invited to contact our newspaper. We will help to publicize your event or ceremony on behalf of area residents who want to find a way to memorialize the tragedies of a year ago.
Time has healed much in the past year. Yet spiritual and emotional recovery is still at task in the minds and hearts of many.
We encourage participation, and personal reflection, in the coming memorial events.
To revisit those tragedies of April 27, 2011, assuredly is a painful asking, yet observing its occurrence will further inspire and spiritually strengthen our resolve to overcome against incredible odds and to continue our challenging rebuild.
When this is done, our community’s healing will be complete.