EDITORIAL: Nature's wrath brought out the best in us

Apr. 16, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

That fateful Saturday, April 16, 2011, started out bright, beautiful and sunny. While there had been reports about the potential for severe weather, it was unimaginable how life would change later that afternoon.

The tornado struck in multiple parts of Lee County. Two lives were lost. Dozens of homes were destroyed or heavily damaged. Lowe's Home Improvement was flattened. Several other businesses, including area farms and agricultural enterprises, sustained catastrophic losses.

Needless to say, it was a day that will live in infamy for those who witnessed the storm and its aftermath. Emergency responders descended upon the major areas of destruction and brought a sense of stability to a chaotic scene. Shock started to set in for the victims — many left wondering how they would pick up and carry forth.

Disaster relief workers — and volunteers from all walks of life — showed up to help for a long while afterward. The Baptist Men's organization was a blessing to many — lending a hand with clearing debris, placing tarps on roofs and any other assistance needed by affected homeowners.

Within weeks, a transformation was under way. In some cases, homes were razed and rebuilt — or repaired. Businesses that had taken a one-two punch from the storm made progress toward reopening — although more than a year passed before some managed to rebound.

Here we are, three years later. Most outward signs of the tornado are gone — but the memory of this violent natural phenomenon is an enduring one.

Some continue to struggle. Scars remain. 

But some aspects of the disaster were positive and should never be forgotten. This community's mettle was tested as never before, and we rose to the challenge. We met each other's needs and put aside our differences. We heard and responded to the message of preparedness. We volunteered. We led. We proved collectively what we are capable of.

In this crisis, many of us became our best selves. And on this anniversary, that's an achievement worth remembering.