Prep World

Prep World

Jon Nelson

Ringgold Rebuilds

By Jon NelsonPosted May 17, 2011 4:54pm (EDT)
Ringgold Athletics Director Robert Akins and Assistant Principal Kyra Rhyne show the devestation Mother Nature left behind.

Ringgold Athletics Director Robert Akins and Assistant Principal Kyra Rhyne show the devestation Mother Nature left behind.


It’s random, but at the same time, systematic…
It’s cruel and uncaring - like the idea that anything Mother Nature would put in our way would be handled with care…

The same person who makes sure that sunrise and sunset are two of the most beautiful parts of the day can also make sure that you know what is beautiful can also be hard to handle and, regrettably, deadly.

We always have this vision of Mother Nature, from the days of those Chiffon margarine commercials from the past…
And, I know, I just dated myself…

((HT: TVLand/youtube))

So, what happens when her fury is thrust upon you and you have no choice…???
Ask the folks of Ringgold…
A lot of us have seen what the damage has been in Alabama, but right here close to home, it’s just as bad…

You ask anyone and the sky went from purple to black and everyone tried to hide. But even if you hide and make it from one side to the other, you’re still stuck with what’s left. Mark Harmon, Shane Keating and myself went to Ringgold to see first-hand how the town is coping with rebuilding- not just the physical, but the mental and emotional aspects of that word… “rebuilding…”

Two weeks after the fact, it still looked an unhappy child was ready to start over with his or her set of Lincoln Logs and smashed the work to pieces…
Driving up Interstate 75, the town of Ringgold (population 3,000) has access from three exits- 345, 348, and 350…

The first one and the last one were fine… the middle was where a tornado, probably 500 yards wide at some points came screaming down the Alabama Highway from west to east.

And it didn’t play favorites…

It didn’t matter if you owned a gas station, a convenience store, a restaurant, a hotel, or a car dealership. It didn’t matter if you owned, rented, leased, or borrowed. Your personal possessions were in the crosshairs or something very angry with a singular purpose… But at the intersection of Alabama Highway and Main Street, it stopped in one place, reinvented itself, made a right turn and picked up speed and momentum and decided that the subdivision that cradled Ringgold High School and Ringgold Middle School would be the new path. And the part of the tornado that stopped at Main Street would meet the other half at the school grounds… hopping over Main Street itself…

Graciously, head football coach and Athletics Director Robert Akins and Assistant Principal Kyra Rhyne allowed us to tour the grounds with them and see what this tornado did to people’s livelihoods, and their lives, as the Tiger family lost two students on that night as they were with their families: a wrestler and a National Honor Society inductee.

You could tell the rotation of the tornado and what it did along the way…
Coach Akins and AP Rhyne can tell you better than I can…

Disclaimer: The below clip is raw, unedited video. You’ll see things as they were recorded on the disc.

But, after the tour, we were left to our own devices… having seen the track the unwanted party guest took to enter the city and followed it up the mountain side where it picked up momentum all over again…

The four block subdivision that caught everything full force was just as randomly jumbled as everything else we had seen… and this was two weeks after the fact...

Homes were either rendered unlivable, or outright destroyed, but some were untouched showing only trees that were turned into obstacles in driveways. The Mt. Peria Baptist Church seemed to symbolize the whole night as one of their travel vans was right-side up and it’s companion was upside-down. Its front canopy and roof had collapsed while some of the church possessions ended up 20 feet up in a nearby tree. But the most sobering moment of the whole trip was on that same street when a woman who was helping another clean up the remains of a life fully-invested asked me:

“Do you know what street this is…?”

Had there been a street sign up, I probably could have recalled it… but those didn’t exist anymore, either…

“Sorry, I wish I knew,” was all I could come up with…

To say it impacted the three of us is a severe understatement…

I have had to worry about people I love in these situations before as we were miles apart and you couldn’t do anything but be supportive over a phone line from hours away. But now having seen what Mother Nature can do close up, you always remember how she impacted others. The high school, they say, may be ready for classes by the end of July. The middle schoolers will move next door, probably, until their new school is built. And that may be for the best so the younger ones can share their thoughts and feelings with the older kids…

They’ll need to…

And while the schools can be rebuilt by insurance, there are a lot of things that can’t be recovered that way… “everything” athletic is the easiest way to say it…

The baseball team was able to salvage some uniforms for their playoff run that took them to a third game in the second round with perennial powerhouse Columbus High, but everything else is still being figured out. The football team is practicing over at Heritage High with the spring game scheduled for this Saturday morning against the Generals and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. The proceeds are all going to Ringgold and their rebuilding…

If you can’t make it, a fund has been set up to help Ringgold High and Ringgold Middle…

RHS/RMS Athletic Fund
c/o Northwest Georgia Bank
PO Box 789
Ringgold, Georgia 30736

It’s our place not to forget what happened…

And if you talk to Coach Akins you get the feeling that when there are those of us on the outside looking in, who are openly rooting for this town to brush itself off and come back standing, that those words he spoke above are part of the solution.

Remember, a solid shoulder of support goes a long way- regardless of where it comes from…

Play it safe, everyone… I’ll talk to you soon…

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