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Town to Recall Tornado Victims With Monument

Posted November 12, 2007
Updated November 13, 2007

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— Almost a year after a tornado ripped through Columbus County, the community plans to dedicate a monument to the eight people killed by the storm.

The early morning tornado hit a mobile home park on Holly Tree Lane and Pretty Branch Lane – about a mile from the Cape Fear River – on Nov. 16, 2006, and left an extensive area covered with debris. The storm caused destruction in a path of about three-quarters of a mile long and about 300 yards wide, damaged about 40 homes and destroyed many others.

Angel Justice, who was assistant rescue chief for the Acme-Delco-Riegelwood Fire Department at the time, said the tragedy brought the community together like nothing else could. So many people were eager to help, she said.

“You think everybody is too busy, but that day, nobody was too busy,” Justice said. "We've come a long ways. We've experienced a lot since that day."

Residents have spent the past 12 months rebuilding homes and rebuilding their lives. But the community still recalls the impact of the tornado as it tries to move on.

Three crosses stand along N.C. Highway 87 as a memorial to tornado victims, and a 7-foot, granite monument will be dedicated to the victims and first responders in a ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday.

"We want to tell everyone thank you and how much it meant to us, and it should be a time of healing," Riegelwood Rescue Chief Donna Hammond said, adding that children who have recovered from serious injuries suffered during the tornado would be at the ceremony.

“To see them look like nothing ever happened to them, it’s amazing,” Hammond said.

Firefighters raised $4,000 from community donations to erect the monument, an obelisk that resembles the Washington Monument, in front of the Acme-Delco-Riegelwood Fire Department. The names of the victims will be inscribed on one side and the names of the emergency workers and fire departments that responded to the tornado will be on the other sides, including volunteer firefighter Michael Brown, 23, who died in his home that morning.

"None of us think that we might not make it to the next morning. But I just think about it a little more now than I did that day," Hammond said.


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  • ECU_chick Nov 13, 2007

    That was down from my high school...just a few miles from my grandmother's house. Of course the monuments are going to be accounted for because this is a very close knit area. The communities are mostly family. Gosh it was devastating to that area....

  • AKA PikeMom Nov 13, 2007

    Let's just erect a monument for every single tragedy.
    While this story has made me teary eyed,I still think the monuments and roadside crosses are getting out of hand.In 20 years from now,wonder if this is ALL we will seeing...sadness.
    I bet the one's that have passed would also appreciate you donating time to your favorite cause,or reading to a child etc.

  • illegals--GO HOME Nov 12, 2007

    It was nice to see the bonding of people of many races during this event....this is what life should be like all the time and not just during tragic events.

    It is great that the survivors have recovered and a permanent memory is being erected to honor those who perished.

    Prayers and good thoughts to all who live there and who helped there.

  • Travised Nov 12, 2007

    I try not to think about that storm. LittleBit lived in that area and I was biting my hand worrying about her after I heard it had hit near there. Thankfully she was using the Wx Radios I gave in the emergency kit and they alerted her in time (jumped in the tub for safety). I was glued to the web that day watching for updates on live news feeds.