It was Good Friday, April 10, and as the Rev. John Hinkle, Jr, and his family were attending services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the lights started to flicker.
“It just got darker and darker,” said Hinkle, “and you could hear the rumbling.”
Hinkle is the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and he was attending the Good Friday service as part of a multi-denominational celebration for Easter. But outside, a tornado ripped through the community, killing a mother, her infant daughter and injuring about 35 others.
The damage was primarily confined to residential neighborhoods, and 82 structures were completely destroyed; another 197 suffered major damage. And 330 others suffered minor damage or were affected by the storm.
Hinkle went to a local hospital to see injured family members from his congregation who lost their home.
“I was standing in the emergency room, and I saw another family who lost their home,” he said.
They were the only injured members of his congregation as the community tries to regain it's footing and put itself back together. Most of the damage was confined to the residential neighborhood where many homes were owner-occupied.
When he conducted Easter Sunday services, Hinkle said the events that transpired two days earlier were truly evident. “There were some who came in blue jeans and t-shirts because they didn’t have any other clothes,” he said.
Hinkle said everybody seemed tired after cleaning up the community. “The cleaning was the easy part,” he said. “The difficult part is coming up.”
And Hinkle said he and other clergy members will be meeting as a group soon the plot their strategy for the long term recovery.
On Saturday, April 11, tornadoes also hit Eva, a community in western Tennessee. Three homes were destroyed, and 12 others were severely damaged.
On Thursday, April 9, tornadoes swept through Mena, AR, killing three, injuring about 30 others and damaging about 600 buildings. Those buildings included the Polk County courthouse and other municipal buildings and a couple of churches.
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