GREENEVILLE –– The sky was clear and the sun was beaming as hundreds filtered into the Camp Creek community on Saturday to pay homage to fallen loved ones killed in the April 2011 tornadoes.
The memorial dedication that started at 3 p.m. in a field next to Camp Creek School was packed with families, firefighters, police, volunteers, Camp Creek Ruritan Club members and friends claiming their spot with lawn chairs and tents.
When Boy Scout Troop 96 presented the colors, a silence fell over the crowd as they listened close to out-of-town speakers and community members share their thoughts at the solemn event.
Ray Shelton, a member of the Camp Creek Fire Department and the Camp Creek Ruritan, said his heart went out to the family members present at the memorial because, for many, this was their funeral for their loved ones.
“We hope that everybody will soon get built completely back, but heal? It’s going to take a while to heal the wound of what’s happened to our community. It’s just devastating what’s happened to our community.”
The ceremony, planned in large part by the Camp Creek Ruritan, included a moment for the families of those who died last year to come forward individually and put a rose on the newly dedicated stone that had the eight victims’ names engraved on it.
The procession included the family members of Bobby Gene Harrison, Marty Joe and Brenda Gail Myers, Jess Lester Richesin, Bessie Lynne Rice, Doug Penley, Jeffrey McGill and Shirley Sachie McKinney. Penley lived in Washington County while the other seven victims were from Greene County.
Carla Bayer, a Camp Creek resident and survivor of the 2011 storms, said while her family was affected by the tornadoes, she was thankful to say all of them survived the storms.
“It’s hard, but it’s a blessing to to see this going on today. I know that God was with me and everyone that was affected last year,” Bayer said. “I’m just grateful that everyone’s pitched in to do this for these families.”
In addition to the fatalities, 236 homes were reported destroyed by the tornadoes and 273 people were injured. The Greene County Emergency Management Agency estimated $12 million worth of damage was done to the community.
Shelton said volunteers came from everywhere, including North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, to help in the recovery.
“The community came together after the storms. Everybody pitched in wanting to help,” he said.
Bayer credits not only the community volunteers, but the Red Cross workers who donated its time to make sure storm victims had everything they needed in the aftermath.
She said that her faith, family and the community helped her get through after the tornado.
“Family and community is the most important thing in the world, besides God,” Bayer said. “If you don’t have family and community and God, you don’t have anything.”
Among those attending the memorial were Donnie Mace, president of Camp Creek Ruritan; Wayne Bettis, a member of Camp Creek Ruritan; the Rev. Ken Smith and Pastor Steve Burkhart. Musical performances included Laura Taliaferro, Tracy Barfield and Will Clark.
A Camp Creek Ruritan Memorial Building also broke ground Saturday and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, attended, as well as Phyllis Lewter, Ruritan national president; Dr. Vicki Kirk, superintendent of Greene County Schools; and Alan Broyles, county mayor.