Some of the scars remain — not just on our comforting Southeast Tennessee landscape and the occasional pile of rubbish that lies untouched on an abandoned property or a patched roof that still awaits the trained hands of a contractor or volunteer, but also on our hearts.
It seems a lifetime since the first series of tornadoes robbed Bradley County families of nine loved ones and demolished almost 300 residences. It seems a distant memory and so very many yesteryears ago that a second demon arose and entered our community from the southwest.
Yet, those who experienced the terror and those who survived it remember it well — on both occasions. Many will be haunted by their losses for generations and their stories will be handed down to newborn children of a new day. As young adults they will repeat the conversation and they will speak of the tragedies that befell their hometown, as described by their parents and their parents’ parents.
Emotional pain carries with it a great longevity. Fear breeds a dread of the future. But experience is life’s finest teacher.
This community will never forget, nor will our hometown ignore the needs of others. Outsiders came to our rescue in a dark hour of need, and so it is only fitting that residents here look to the west with an eye of hope and a hand of deliverance for our neighbors in South Pittsburg.
Almost two weeks ago, the tiny town on the far side of Chattanooga was ravaged by record floodwaters from a massive storm that threatened our own Bradley County. But our people were lucky ... this time. We weathered heavy rainfall, but South Pittsburg took a pounding that swamped businesses and buried many under a layer of mud.
As the town bravely works to recover its footing, and as elected leaders continue their quest for outside financial aid, outsiders — just like those who came to Cleveland’s rescue more than two years ago — are pouring in with much appreciated support, both materially and financially.
Cleveland is one such town taking up the cause.
At the behest of Mayor Tom Rowland, who reports his office has received multiple phone calls from locals who have friends and family living in the Marion County community, area residents are reaching out to South Pittsburg with their dollars and with physical gifts of recovery.
“We are appreciative of all the help our neighbors in South Pittsburg are receiving from Clevelanders and for the extra efforts being made by the Salvation Army and staff,” Rowland told this newspaper. “This is a great example of neighbors helping neighbors. When we were hit by tornadoes, we were blessed to have neighboring counties coming to our aid. I hope we can meet the needs of our neighbors in South Pittsburg at this time.”
Help is arriving, but the needs are great. Ruthie Forgey, Salvation Army corps administrator in Cleveland, reports the greatest needs are still diapers, cleaning supplies like mops, brooms, disinfectants and paper towels, and other types of emergency items. Certainly, monetary donations are needed as well to help SA feed families in need as well as to provide box fans. Such contributions may be made via email at csarmy.org or 1-800-SAL-ARMY.
Dropoff times at the local Salvation Army post are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 435 Inman St. or at the Inman Street Coffee House until 11 p.m. daily.
When our community needed help, others came and thousands contributed. This time, residents of “The City With Spirit” and our Bradley County brethren are not the recipients, but the givers.
We urge all who can help to offer their hands, their hearts and their donations.