Thursday, May 9, 2013
Small town on mend
Two years ago I wrote about the destruction in Hackleburg, Ala.
The small town, where I have strong family ties, was basically leveled by an EF5 tornado on April 27, 2011.
This past Sunday, I saw signs that the town is on the mend – slowly but surely.
The biggest sign came a week and half ago – on the two-year anniversary of the twister. The Wrangler plant reopened.
The facility has long been the kingpin of Hackleburg.
I will never forget driving there for a visit not long after the tornado hit. The plant was a pile of rubble – with twisted metal and trucks tossed around like toothpicks.
The VF Corporation’s commitment to rebuild the Wrangler facility gave the residents of Hackleburg hope.
On Friday, April 26, of this year, that hope turned into reality – a true blessing.
“This plant doesn’t mean a job, it means a way of life,” said Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley at the ribbon-cutting. “Your way of life was crushed, but it is going to be better and that’s evident by what we see today.”
There are other signs of progress.
There’s the new Dollar General.
There’s a new Church of Christ building.
Groundwork has begun for the construction of a new Hackleburg School.
Plans for a new grocery store have been announced.
And there’s a home back on the Frederick property – formerly where my Pawpaw and Mawmaw lived.
Sunday, Mother, Pam and I stopped for a special visit with Uncle Mack, Aunt Kay and cousin Johnny. They’re back living on the site of the old homeplace. It was great to see.
For years and years, we’d have family gatherings there on the first Sunday in May.
As we were leaving, Mack, Kay and Johnny talked about possibly bringing it back in years to come. It’s something I’d like to see – a very meaningful and enjoyable tradition for all.
One of the main reasons for our first Sunday in May visits is an event called Decoration Day at Cedar Tree Cemetery.
This year, it was raining, but the beauty of the flowers across the landscape made it a bright and beautiful day.
It’s the burial place of my father, my four grandparents and other family members. The visits always bring back many fond memories.
But mainly, on this trip, my mind was on the tornado and the determination of my friends in Hackleburg to rebuild.
As we drove to the new Church of Christ building and headed back toward the downtown area, my eyes scanned across all the trees shattered and stripped by the twister.
Then we went through what used to be downtown. Only a few buildings remain, like the historic one that once housed the Bank of Hackleburg.
Across from it, a stretch of buildings, one of which once housed my Pawpaw’s store, probably cannot be salvaged.
“It will take awhile (the revitalization),” I said to Mother and Pam, “but it will happen.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that Hackleburg will one day be not only back but better.
Wrangler gave it a huge boost. Others will follow.
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