Sanford residents mark anniversary of tornado tragedy

Lowes Home Improvement employees stand in the parking lot of their store after it was hit by a tornado in Sanford, N.C., Saturday, April 16, 2011. (Jim R. Bounds)
April 14, 2012 9:00:00 PM PDT
Deadly tornadoes blew through the Triangle and surrounding areas one year ago Monday. The image of a steel roof torn off a Lowes in Sanford has come to symbolize the incident.

On Sunday, the Sanford community gathered to remember the day's events and celebrate the strides residents have made.

People gathered at Depot Park in Sanford to honor those who died, as members of the First Apostolic Church of Sanford marked a year of recovery.

Church member Annie Akers said she watched the city rebuild the Lowes and other damaged areas.

"We've went into the neighborhoods," she said. "Some houses have rebuilt. Some have not, so we've seen it all."

The church, along with other religious organizations and community groups helped storm-afflicted residents by serving meals and cleaning up debris.

For many, like survivor R.V. Hight, their lives were changed one year ago.

"I shall never forget being in our bedroom closet when the room wrapping around that closet was literally being torn off of the house," said Hight.

Two lives were taken that day, and a bouquet of flowers sat in the center of an events stage at Depot Park to pay tribute to one of the fallen: Michael Hunter was killed when his mobile home was destroyed.

Sanford Mayor Cornelia Oliver said the tragedy has scared many and that the broken hearts have been slow to heal.

"It's just heartbreaking," she said. "While it is so enriching to hear what people did, it's heartbreaking to learn so many people will never recover."

Oliver said more gatherings have been planned to mark Sanford's recovery from the tornadoes.

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