Published: April 19, 2009
Images of the Good Friday tornado forever will be etched in our minds, from the hundreds of people who witnessed the tornado itself to those who viewed the destruction.
The Murfreesboro Post recalls some of the most memorable Top 10 images.
1. Powerful tornadic winds sucked new father John Bryant from his 9-week-old daughter, Olivia, and wife, Kori, from inside their Haynes Drive area home, his mother reported in a statement last week.
“The last time he saw his daughter, he was being sucked through the roof and was looking down at Olivia as she was looking up at him,” the mother stated. “His exact words were, ‘I was going up, up, up and I flew.’”
John Bryant survived but his wife and daughter died in one of Rutherford County’s worst tornadoes.
2. The tornado entered Rutherford County about five miles from the southwest corner in Eagleville, demolishing businesses and homes in a 23.5 mile path, ending in a field off Lofton Road in Lascassas, about five miles from the county line.
The first signs of the tornado were observed at Main Street and Kelley Road in Eagleville, where trees toppled to the ground. It hopped through Eagleville and Rockvale before landing in Blackman.
The tornado jumped across the interstate to West Park subdivision across from The Avenue. It touched down in the Stones River Battlefield, skipped across Northwest Broad Street and landed on Thompson Lane, damaging businesses and homes in the Riverview subdivision, and churned on, hitting areas form Tedder Lane, Penny Lane, Compton Road and Bradyville Pike. The tornado damaged more than 800 homes and businesses, before fizzling out in a field in Lascassas.
3. Emergency Management Agency figures showed the destruction amounted to almost $42 million to businesses and 845 homes. About 117 homes were demolished, 298 sustained major damage and 175 sustained minor damage. An additional 255 homes were affected. More than 8,000 tons of debris, tree and brush were collected.
4. The response began when sheriff’s deputies spotted the tornado in the western part of Rutherford County and gave updates about its path. Murfreesboro Police dispatchers handled almost 500 calls for service during the next 12 hours.
When the tornado touched down, both on duty and off duty law enforcement officers and firefighters, volunteer firefighters, paramedics from both county and private services and rescue squad volunteers fanned out to the hardest hit areas. Many risked their own lives, crawling into flattened houses to rescue babies, children and parents, never expecting a bit of recognition.
Fire Chief Cumbey Gaines and firefighters conducted door-to-door searches and began first-aid treatment to injured residents.
State troopers and MTSU Police kept gawkers out of the affected areas.
5. Thousands of volunteers from Rutherford and surrounding counties packed up backhoes, chainsaws and other equipment to begin clearing debris out of homes. Shelley Graham of Tomahawk Trace said volunteers began clearing her yard Friday, staying until after dark. Church volunteers arrived at 7:30 a.m. Saturday with a backhoe to removed debris.
Church groups, the American Red Cross, Atmos Energy and citizens brought all kinds of food to feed both the victims and volunteers. The American Red Cross served more than 15,000 meals.
Murfreesboro Assistant Police Chief Roy Fields said a father of a tornado victim donated uncooked food to police at one of three command centers. When they politely told him they couldn’t cook the food, he bought them a charcoal grill.
6. Murfreesboro Assistant City Manager Rob Lyons said more than 18,000 customers lost power from the tornadoes. Twenty-five crews and contract employees with Murfreesboro Electric Department, joined by Nashville Electric Service and other electric services, worked to get electricity restored to crucial places first. Electricity was restored to most customers Saturday night.
7. Gov. Phil Bredesen, accompanied by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Basham, Homeland Security Director and Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell, Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Mike Walker and Cabinet members, the county’s state legislative division, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon and his staff, Murfreesboro Mayor Tommy Bragg and most City Councilmen and County Mayor Ernest Burgess toured the hardest hit areas. Bredesen originally flew over the site but asked for a ground tour where he memorialized the Bryants and met with survivors.
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker toured the site and Tedder Lane area Monday.
8. Alert Murfreesboro Post writer Michelle Willard spotted the tornado and captured its path on Medical Center Parkway with her camera phone. Her video was viewed on the Post Web site. The Weather Channel, ABC, CBS, Fox and CNN called about her video.
The tornado was the most documented weather event ever in Middle Tennessee with hundreds of dramatic photographs and videos.
9. The EF4 tornado touched down with sustained winds of 170 mph and gusts up to 200 mph. The National Weather Service reported only 1 percent of tornadoes reach the EF4 stage.
Rutherford County EMA Director Roger Allen, who has responded to at least six county tornadoes, was “amazed we didn’t have more fatalities with the size of the tornado and amount of time it was on the ground.”
10. Even in trying economic times, people opened their wallets and hearts to offer food, services or whatever survivors needed. Just one example: Good Health Associates, Dr. Reita and Dr. Rajesh Aggarwall donated $10,000 cash, medical and housing assistance to Cliff Sharp of Greenhouse Ministries, prompting elected officials to contribute as well.
Also, contributions to the American Red Cross helped provide the meals and services to survivors.
There are countless other examples of businesses, groups, churches and individuals stepping up.
11. Looky Lous. You can't do anything about a natural force, but some people let their morbid curiosity overwhelm human need. Instead of gawking, if they wanted to see what had happened, they should get out of their cars, put on some gloves and lend a hand.