Alabama volunteers lift spirits

Carbon Hill Mayor James Richardson is focused on rebuilding his town.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | CARBON HILL, Ala. | November 19, 2002


A Christmas Day tornado ripped up apartments and homes in Volusia County. (DNN photo by Heather Moyer)
Credit: Disaster News Network

As workers pulled the wrecked roof off City Hall, Carbon Hill Mayor James Richardson was focused on rebuilding the rest of the town.

"Our concern right now is getting our citizens back in their houses," he said. "Once we get them back to normal, we'll worry about the city stuff."

So many people came to help clean up that Police Chief Luther Latner said he was afraid to name them all for fear of forgetting anyone.

"We're all coming together," he said. "We're all helping each other."

"We have had a tremendous amount of volunteers that have come from all over," Richardson agreed. "Without them we wouldn't be where we are right now."

From the United Methodist Committee on Relief to AmeriCorps to local churches, teams of volunteers have been lifting debris, shattered belongings -- and people's hearts.

On Main Street, the portion of Route 78 that runs through town, volunteers with the United Church of Christ's disaster relief ministries were storing away box after box of donated clothes.

Volunteers hauled the clothes in from the sidewalk and stored them in an abandoned department store. The local Church of Christ was so overflowing with donated goods, said the Rev. Danny Butler, he and his volunteers had to bring all the clothes downtown to the old store in order to make room.

Many national disaster responders commonly call clothing that collects in the wake of disasters "the second disaster" because of storage problems and clothing that ultimately goes unused. A better donation, they said, is cash.

Townspeople have also been faced with con artists pretending to represent insurance companies or building contractors, Latner said.

"We've had a few problems like that, but we've asked them to leave-politely," he said. "But you have that anywhere-people who try to take advantage of other people for some unknown reason."

Out on the outskirts of town, at the Abundant Life Temple, the Rev. E.J. Lowry said his parishioners were bringing food and supplies to tornado survivors. Some of the worst damage in Walker County occurred a short walk from the church. Two people were killed there, and several homes were destroyed. His church, however, was not touched.

"Any time we have a disaster we're willing and ready to help anyone," Lowry said. The hardest part, he said, is trying to offer comfort the survivors.

"You really don't have the words to speak," he said.

He tells people, "You've got a lot to live for, despite your loss. But you've got to focus on what you've got left. We're weeping at night, but joy comes in the morning."


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