State News

Bertie County honors tornado victims, survivors

Posted May 24, 2011 4:00 a.m. EDT
Updated May 24, 2011 10:47 p.m. EDT

— Candles burned brightly Tuesday evening in the North Carolina county where more people were killed by tornadoes last month than anywhere else in the state at a special ceremony planned by county officials.

The ceremony, held in Bertie Middle School's gym in Windsor, honored tornado victims, survivors and recovery workers.

"Tonight we're going to remember those that we lost and we're going to honor those that survived the storm," said county spokeswoman Misty Deanes before the ceremony. "We're going to all grieve together for our losses in Bertie County, for the pain and suffering of the community, and we're also going to all look toward the future."

The small rural county was hit particularly hard by the killer tornadoes that tore across the state on April 16. Twelve people in Bertie County died, accounting for half the entire death toll in North Carolina.

Three of the Bertie County residents killed all lived together at the same group home.

Colerain resident Mary Grandy said her cousin, 54-year-old Louis Chamblee, died in the storm.

The tornado "tore (his house) to poeces, threw it in the woods and he was laying in the yard," she said.

Melvin Hinchey lost his mother, Gayle. She was 56.

"I used to go out and tell people, 'I'm sorry.' But I can't say it anymore, because now it has happened to me," he said.

Hinchey said he's trying to rebuild his home and his life.

"(I'm) buying another house and trying to stay focused," he said.