By Kim West
Sue Eady of Harvest was in her living room when an EF5 tornado crushed her one-story, four-bedroom frame house on April 27, 2011.
Eady spent 16 days in critical care with injuries to both of her legs. Her granddaughter, Shannon Sampson, wasn’t as fortunate. Sampson, who had turned 40 years old on April 6 and lived with Eady, was returning from her mother’s nearby home and nearly made it into the house before the tornado struck.
“It was a day I will never forget,” said Eady, whose family built Gilwood Park in Madison to honor Shannon’s memory. “People say it sounds like a freight train when a tornado is coming, but I didn’t hear anything, and then my house exploded.”
Eady, along with Sampson’s mother, Cindy Mitchell, and Sampson’s daughter, Whitney Rudd, were part of a large gathering of first responders, families of the tornado victims and local officials as the Limestone County Tornado Memorial was dedicated Friday morning at Bethel Church of Christ Cemetery on U.S. 72 East.
The memorial includes a red brick wall that wraps around a concrete foundation bearing three limestone slabs with the names of the county’s 30 tornado victims since 1924. The bricks were salvaged from the victims’ homes and the adjacent Bethel Church of Christ, which was wiped out by the April 27 tornado.
“I was very pleased with the design,” said Karen Middleton, a member of the Tornado Remembrance and Awareness Committee. The committee formed earlier this year and hosted a brick-laying ceremony for the memorial on the one-year anniversary this April.
Matt Burns and Al Burns of Precision Masonry built and designed the memorial’s shape, while the slabs were donated and volunteers poured the concrete.
United Way Day of Caring donated the $1,300 bronze plaque that reads in part: “Here these bricks represent hope and the resilience of a community that came together to help one another recover that day, and in the wake of all tornadoes in Limestone County’s history.”
The Athens Rotary Club, Bethel Church of Christ and the family of Jan Turner McElyea are among the memorial’s benefactors.
TRAC members include Rebekah Davis, Middleton, Tanjie Nash Schrimsher, Teresa Montgomery, Susan Nelson, Lynne Hart, Lora Scripps, Al Burns, Matt Burns, Don Bowers, Marshall Springer and committee organizer Kelly Kazek.