One year later: Aftermath of tornado tragedy


In Cumberland County, residents paused Monday to remember April 16, 2011 when one person was killed by a tornado's path of destruction.

Blue tarps still cover some homes in the Cottonade Community - one of the county's hardest hit areas.

"The windows broke out . The roof went . The walls went. There's nothing left. There's a tree on my daughter's truck," Tina Palmer told ABC11 shortly after the storm.

She and 10 others, including six children, piled into a bathtub while a tornado blew their house apart. Fortunately, they all survived.

Palmer and her family have since moved away. However, homeowner Michael Lewis is focused on rebuilding. He will be able to move into his new home in about a month.

"The buildings over here, like this house, was very much damaged," he said. "That was eventually torn down and destroyed. And the house next to it, the roof, everything was gone. There were three people in that house and yet they were not injured."

Around the Raleigh area, the Stoney Brook Mobile Home Park was hit hard by the storms. Four children were killed when a tree slammed into their house.

The debris has since been cleaned up, but rebuilding continues in the King Charles neighborhood where some houses still look just like they did days after the tornado hit - still covered in tarps.

In downtown Raleigh, Shaw University had to end the semester early last year after windows were smashed and trees were uprooted across the historic campus.

A year later, the campus is up and running with improvements to the most memorably battered building named after attorney and Shaw alum Willie Gary.

"It was in terrible shape," Shaw University President Dorothy Cowser Yancy said. "We've been able to bring it back, bring the building up to code and that took a little time. That slowed us down a bit, but we got it done!"

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

People gathered at Depot Park to honor the two local residents killed that day. 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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