Local News

Town to Recall Tornado Victims With Monument

Posted November 12, 2007 12:40 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2007 7:21 a.m. EST

— 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.