Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 4:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 4:18 p.m.
Shaw, who lost his wife and granddaughter one year ago in the storm, had one of the 27 homes destroyed by the tornado that caused destruction on the central and eastern parts of Davidson County. The weather event caused some type of damage to more than 170 properties and cost more than $10 million.
"I hope we don't ever have to go through it again," said Mike Moore, chief of the Central Volunteer Fire Department. "That was probably the biggest thing that's happened in my district."
The Central fire district was the only one in the county to have people perish because of the storm. The deaths of Shaw's loved ones remain on the minds of many one year later.
Not to be forgotten
Shaw, marking the one-year anniversary of the tornado, along with family members and friends, will go to the graves for a private candlelight vigil Friday to remember wife Janice, 50, and granddaughter, Azlyn, 3. They will go there in remembrance and place red roses on the graves. The grandmother and her granddaughter were the only two people who died in the EF2 tornado.
"I just keep thinking what they might have went through ? not knowing," he admitted.
Shaw said he recently observed the birthdays of his wife and granddaughter, both of which he described as difficult days. To mark the birthdays, Shaw and family placed flowers on the graves.
Handling the one-year anniversary mentally is going to be the toughest day yet since he heard the news of Azlyn and Janice's deaths, he said. Shaw, who lives with daughter Christina and her husband, Christopher, said it's been four months since he's been back to the site of his former rental home. The Meadow Run Lane residence, located off Old Burkhart Road, was demolished, and Shaw acknowledges he goes back to the property as part of the healing process.
As he heals, Shaw spends as much time as he can with family and friends. Christina, he said, has been reluctant to let him move out of her house.
"I said something about moving," Shaw recalled. "She said, 'Why? You don't like us anymore.'"
Shaw had no idea of the threat of a tornado as he was leaving work and when the devastation was occurring the night of the tornado. As he was leaving PPG Industries in Lexington, Shaw noticed heavy downpours as he ran a quick errand before heading home.
As he passed Central Davidson High School and went around a curve, he noticed a tree lying on the road with cones around it. He continued his travel to find a fire truck on Allred Road, and firefighters had set out cones. Shaw knew things weren't looking good as he arrived at Old Burkhart Road and noticed a friend's home was off its foundation.
Shaw saw lights off of a fire truck and silhouettes off all the houses but his. Shaw was told his wife had been taken to the hospital. His mind immediately turned toward looking for Azlyn and her mother, Peggy Shaw, both of whom resided with him and his wife.
Shaw learned shortly thereafter that Peggy was safe and OK as she was at work. Shaw's granddaughter, however, was found at the edge of the woods behind the home under debris. His dog, Socks, who received no major injury, was the first living thing he saw at the scene of the tornado.
'Gone in 20 seconds'
Roger and Jamie Rummage's home on Silver Ridge Drive was completely destroyed. Jamie's brothers and father built the house about 20 years ago. Jamie was lighting an oil lamp when her husband insisted they weren't going to lose power.
"I said, 'There is a tornado in Rowan County,'" the wife recalled. "(He said), 'You are not in Rowan County.'"
Jamie Rummage recalled having brownies in the oven that were supposed to be ready to pull out at 6:15 p.m.
"That's how I know the tornado hit at 6:13 because my brownies were about out," she recalled.
The Rummages, along with Luther Coggins, the best friend of the couple's son, Jordan Rummage, were at the Silver Ridge Drive home when the tornado struck. They all escaped serious injury.
"The next day Jordan and Luther. ? They got the brownies out of the oven and ate them," Jamie said. "I'm not kidding. It was so funny. I said, 'Tell me you guys are not eating those brownies.' Jordan said, 'You said they were done and have been sitting in the oven all night. They are fine.'
"I think that everything happens for a reason. It was hard for me to have that mind-set for a long time seeing 20 years of your life gone in 20 seconds."
The Rummages moved into a house on High Rock Lake while their home on Silver Ridge Drive was being rebuilt. They moved into their new house May 18. As her new house was being built, Rummage admits she pondered why she and her husband lost practically everything they had in the storm.
"Everything made me a better person," she said. "I didn't have compassion for people that I do now. You never know when your life is going to change."
In the days leading up to the one-year anniversary, Jamie Rummage said she's wondered how Shaw is doing. She's also been concerned about the weather and has had a hard time sleeping.
"I'm worried about it getting warm," she said. "That's what happened. It was freakishly warm."
Roger Rummage said the year has been one to remember. The event from one year ago, he acknowledged, brought heartache for the family, but in September their son, Jordan, married. The Rummages held the wedding reception at their new home.
"We had always been a focal point for cookouts," the husband said, adding he and his wife will celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary Monday.
Tanya McCarn, whose family lives on Branch Creek Drive off Allred Road, heard a low humming sound as she was washing dishes in the kitchen as the tornado was seconds away from causing heavy damage to her home. The McCarns' residence received more than $200,000 in losses (structural and personal belongings).
McCarn said she and her son, Evan, who was 7 years old at the time of the tornado, took cover in a bedroom closet. The only room in the house that was dry and safe was the closet, the family discovered in the aftermath of the storm.
"God truly had his protective hand over us," McCarn said. "This entire situation could have turned out differently."
Thankful to be alive
Rebecca Rhodes is the daughter of Kenneth and Janice Hedrick. The Hedricks, who live on the corner of Hedrick Mill and Old Burkhart roads, lost their home in the tornado and moved back into their rebuilt house in July.
"They are very thankful to be alive, but our lives will never be the same," Rhodes said. "Since the tornado, every time it thunders or the wind is blowing hard, we run to the bathroom or turn on the TV. As my mom said, her sense of security is gone. As their daughter, I (grew) up in that house, and I lived there for 23 years. That house was my home. The new one does not feel like home to me. Even my children are now scared when it thunders or the wind blows."
In the days leading up to the one-year anniversary, Rhodes explained her family is a "little saddened" at the thought of what happened while being thankful to still have her mom and dad.
"It breaks my heart to hear my dad tell the story of that night," she said.
Rhodes said her parents went to the basement during the tornado. She said her father, after the tornado passed, turned on his flashlight and saw the house slowly falling on them.
"All they were able to do (was) climb out of what was once the basement wall barefoot," Rhodes recalled. "My parents never told anyone that my mom was fighting cancer last year. A week after the tornado she had a PET scan to see if the cancer was gone, and it came back clear. My mom said, 'I beat cancer and I survived a tornado, God is not done with me yet.'"
Lisa Fowler and her family received about $70,000 in damage to their home on Old Mountain Road in the Moss Brook development. She explained her family was the only home to have this kind of damage in her development.
"We were so thankful that our lives were saved and God protected us that night," Fowler said. "? Some lost all. Some lost family. Such a horrific experience can bring a community together."
A joint effort
Firefighters from fire departments across the county and surrounding counties joined in to help the Central and Silver Valley fire districts ? two of the fire districts that received extensive damage due to the tornado. Moore recalled having a truck from about 20 different departments at his station.
"Everybody came together and worked well," he said. "? A lot of neighbors came out and helped families. A lot of them came out to help each other because I know (the tornado victims) were surprised people would still come out and help people that way."
The Denton, Tabernacle and Fair Grove volunteer fire departments were on standby at the Silver Valley Volunteer Fire Department the night of the tornado. Silver Valley Fire Chief Chris Hedrick recalled his firefighters being "overwhelmed" with calls.
"When we went out and did damage assessments, it was hard to believe," Hedrick said. "You couldn't tell how much damage was there. I couldn't have words for it."
Reggie Lookabill is the chief of the Davidson County Rescue Squad and also an operations supervisor with Davidson County Emergency Medical Services. He was working on a shift with Davidson County EMS when the tornado occurred.
"It was very rewarding to see the departments come together and work together," Lookabill said. "Everybody realized the common goal ahead of them. Everybody just stayed on focus and on track together. As I went back to the staging area at the Central Fire Department, it was a solemn gathering not knowing what we were facing."
Lookabill was on the scene of the Shaws' residence, where the grandmother and granddaughter were located. It's always tragic when a child dies in an event like the 2011 tornado, the rescue squad chief said.
"It will bring a big man to his knees," Lookabill said, referring to the stress experienced by first responders from the tornado.
Larry Morgan, emergency management coordinator for Davidson County Emergency Services, said first responders at emergency services and in the county improve each time after a weather event occurs. He noted the knowledge his department received from a tornado in 2010 that hit the county helped with the response for this past year's tornado.
"We continue to train and update our resources," Morgan said. "Any time we have an event like this, we discover issues we had. We will never be perfect, but we will continue to get better."
Morgan recalled having representation from each fire department in the county at the scene of the devastation one year ago. He said deputies with the Davidson County Sheriff's Office were also on the ground trying to assist first responders.
"In the time of need, they all come out and help," he said. "It was just tremendous and phenomenal. I had folks who came out to help that I didn't know where they came from until after the fact. We had all these folks who came running in a time of need."
Darrick Ignasiak can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 217, or at email@example.com.