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Who are your tornado heroes?

By Walter Geiger I was met by a surreal scene at 1:30 a.m. last Thursday when I pulled up to the Hot Shot store or what was left of it. The usually brightly lit facility was dark. It was raining. The only light came from flashlights and police and emergency strobes. I marveled at the shredded store and the smashed church across the street. I had only a small flashlight but I could see enough to know things were bad. Already, emergency personnel were there. They left their own homes and families while the storm sirens were still going off to do what they do ‘“ protect and serve. I noticed a commotion on the east side of Atlanta Street and saw Al Moltrum of the Barnesville Police Department stepping over downed power lines as he led Paul, Patricia and Stephanie Buice from their shattered home. He had a light no bigger than mine but he made it. I got to Grove Street, driving as far as I could. Then I got out and walked. I climbed over trees and power lines, shooting photos all the way. I encountered more heroes with each step. I got there quickly but the emergency response was already huge. The place was teeming with deputies, EMTs, volunteer firefighters, CERT team members and Good Samaritans drawn to the tragedy like moths to the flame. Uninjured residents staggered around in shock. Their homes were gone. They were walking wounded. They staggered up the road toward the ambulances bruised and shaken. A firefighter came toward me carrying seven-year-old Chloe Gunter who had been separated from her parents who were later found dead. ‘Mama blew away,’ she told her rescuers. There were stretcher cases. Men struggled to carry victims to the ambulances which could not get close in due to fallen trees. It was arduous work making that trek over the trees and wires while trying to avoid nails jutting from boards from shredded homes that lay about like pixi stiks. All this took place in a rain that varied from drizzle to downpour. All light was hand-held or from the headlights of ATVs. Homes were shredded as if they had been run through a giant food processor. Cars were tossed about as if by some giant hand with a new set of Hot Wheels. All the airbags had deployed. Emergency flashers blinked on and off. The headlights on one golf cart flung from a shed into a tree shone brightly through the night. Videotape sucked from cassettes was everywhere. It hung from trees and ruined structures along with shards of clothing and garlands of pink insulation. Near where the dead were found, things were quiet. Occasionally we could hear sounds like someone tapping on debris to signal rescuers. We finally determined the sounds came from trees and limbs falling off in the distance. The compound where the Gunter family lived was devastated. It was hard to determine where the homes originally stood. They were shredded and blown into the cutoff pines like leaves before a giant blower. I finally used my iPhone to pull up an aerial photo of what the place looked like before the twister hit to get some perspective. The nice rural setting had been transformed by the twister into hell on earth. It was dark but the heroes poured in. They searched for survivors. They picked up photos and other priceless possessions of the victims. They found and calmed dislocated pets and crying children. I could list the names of dozens of them here but won’t due to the fear of leaving someone out. But we do want to hear from you, our readers, about those who came to your rescue, helped your loved ones or just went the extra mile in our communal time of need. There are hundreds of them out there and we want them to be recognized and honored. Call us at 770-358-NEWS, e-mail me at news@barnesville.com or write your stories of heroism and get them to us. We also have forms at the office you can fill out. I will make sure each and every one of them get told.

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