April 27, 2011 will forever be ingrained in resident’s minds as the most terrifying day in small town history since the Civil War. A category EF4 tornado ripped through this small Georgia town, causing widespread damage and leaving many confused and bewildered. Ringgold is nestled at the foot of the Appalachian mountain range, creating beautiful scenery year round. For this reason, tornadoes are rare in this area, adding to the shock of April’s disaster. Reaching over 100 mph winds, this tornado took out buildings, trees and power lines in no time. Once it was over, eight people had lost their lives, both young and old. It was a sad day for Ringgold residents as tears flowed freely once damage was surveyed. Many of Ringgold’s residents were born and raised in the small town, their families settling there hundreds of years ago. Some dishonest people entered Ringgold’s downtown district to loot pharmacies and mechanic shops in hopes of cashing in on other’s misery and loss. These people were quickly apprehended and charged with a slew of crimes, showing despite disaster, Ringgold will not stand for greed or dishonesty of this nature.
The day after the tornado rendered Ringgold an almost wasteland, residents were out delivering water and food to those hit hardest. Others were out cleaning up rubble and helping clear blocked roads as downtown Ringgold remained closed to outside traffic. As the eight bodies were recovered from the wreckage on the outskirts of Ringgold, desire to help became stronger. Almost two weeks went by before Ringgold was open to outside traffic, wishing to catch a glimpse of the devastation in this historical event.
Seven months later, residents are still rebuilding as the shock still rings in their hearts. Its a slow process but Ringgold is now regaining its former glory. Of the businesses that suffered harshly from the tornado, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, Waffle House, Food Lion,McDonalds and the Kangaroo station are back and operational. Hotel owners have been ordered by local judges to either rebuild or clear out the rubble that is a constant reminder to residents of that fateful day. If they ignore the ruling they could face hefty fines. Many other businesses are not planning on returning to Ringgold, for unknown reasons. On the flip side, businesses such as Arbys, Target and Wal-Mart are rumored to replace these absent businesses to increase revenue to the storm-ravaged town and boost tourism.
Private homes are being rebuilt as insurance settlements are now coming in and contractors are finding more work than they dreamed of. Few homes have been completely demolished and cleared due to the damage suffered. The outlook of residents is optimistic as hope and togetherness has become the focus. By working together, we have all formed bonds that will last a long time. The April tornado gained national attention and an outpouring of encouragment and help from people all over the United States. Ringgold has become a prime example of what is lacking in society today; community involvement and love. I am proud to be a native Ringgoldian, and along with other natives, will pass this story of disaster and hope on to my children and grandchildren throughout the years.