When the community gathered at Foggy Hollow Farm to remember the hurt and the hope it experienced in the year after the twister struck, the only sounds that could be heard were pleasant: A light breeze rushed through the giant oaks that were spared by the tornado and a bluegrass band sang and plucked in rhythm on the stage.
Community leaders, organizers and about 35 community members gathered at the farm to remember how lives and the landscape were changed by the tornado one year ago. It was the second of several memorials and remembrances in Calhoun County this weekend.
A handful of community leaders spoke at the event. They remembered the devastating loss that resulted from the storm. They also remembered the hope that rose as neighbors and strangers banded together to rebuild the community over the last 12 months.
Rescue workers from five counties converged on Calhoun County that night, the speakers said. When the sun rose the next day the magnitude of the twister’s destruction began to come into focus.
An unknown number of volunteers began pouring into the community with chainsaws in tow. Roads were cleared, limbs removed from homes and drives.
“No body told them what to do they just went out,” said Les Honts, with First Baptist Church of Williams.
The speakers remembered how the tornado took their homes, their sense of security. They also remembered how the tragedy gave them a chance to learn to trust other people again.
“Until the storm hit I just about lost hope in all mankind,” King said.
The event Saturday was lightly attended. There were more seats than people, more event programs than there were hands to hold them. The turnout was low, but that may be a good sign said Jerry King, a Webster’s Chapel resident who emerged as a community leader in the wake of the storm, who spoke at the ceremony.
Many people couldn’t be there because they had to attend little league ball games, organizers said. Others couldn’t come because of a church fish fry, others because they were helping their daughters prepare for an evening beauty pageant.
Lives are once again changing in Webster’s Chapel and the scenery is changing too.
Trees that a year ago were bowed over like wilting daisies now bear new growth, small leaves sprouting from many of the warped trunks.
Homes that were blown away by the tornado have been built back. New roofs cover many of the structures that still stood.
“Most people are kind of going on with their lives now,” King said.
Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star. Storm anniversary observances Sunday
Memorial service for storm victims from Ohatchee and Big Oak, 2-4 p.m. at Janney Furnace, 145 Janney Road, Ohatchee
At First Baptist Church of Williams, 5579 Nisbet Lake Road, Jacksonville:
- Arrival of motorcycle riders and presentation of donation to rebuilding effort, 1:30 p.m.
- Memorial service, 3 p.m., in church sanctuary
- Celebration of recovery, 4 p.m., music, games and picnic