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franklin county times

Community honors five tornado victims

Lannah and Lilly Alexander look at the monument placed in Oak Grove honoring the five community members who were killed in last April’s tornado. The deadly twister destroyed the Alexander’s home while they were all inside, but fortunately the family escaped harm.

OAK GROVE – Though a year has passed since a deadly tornado carved its path of destruction across Franklin County, killing 26 residents and injuring hundreds more, signs of rebuilding and recovering are still evident.
Houses are still being rebuilt and families are still looking to put the pain behind them, but hopefully another step in the healing process took place Sunday when a large crowd of East Franklin and Oak Grove residents gathered to remember five community members who were killed that day.
A monument was placed adjacent to the community’s war memorial and honors the victims of the storm. The five from East Franklin who lost their lives that day were Jeffrey Cotham, Charlene Crochet, Donald Heaps, Kelli Morgan and Michael Morgan.
The top of the monument contains the five names, while the base around it has the following inscription:
“An EF5 tornado passed through this community on Apr. 27, 2011 at approx. 3:40 p.m. This storm system was one of the worst in US history and the worst natural disaster ever in the state of AL. This storm stayed on the ground 132.1 miles from MS across AL and into TN. The storm reached its peak in the Oak Grove community of Franklin County, AL with winds over 210 mph & a path1.25 miles wide.
“This monument is dedicated to those whose lives were lost, to those who survived the storm & to all who helped to comfort & restore. We were overwhelmed with help from the churches & citizens with a love never witnessed by the people of this community. Many witnessed things that cannot be written here, but may they be told or recorded elsewhere for our posterity forever.”
Members of the East Franklin Fire Department also unveiled a memorial on the side of a fire truck that was donated to them by the Foley Fire Department following the tornado.
State Sen. Roger Bedford told the crowd that he had never seen the scope of death and destruction that was left behind by the 62 tornadoes that passed through Alabama that day, but he said the storms also brought out a spirit in people that made him proud to be from Franklin County.
“It brought out the best in all of us,” he said.
The senator told a story about a member of a Baptist disaster relief group working out of Russellville’s First Baptist Church following the storm. The man told Bedford that he had been to a many natural disaster recovery sites, but he had never seen a community like Franklin County.
“That’s the way our community pulls together and that’s the way we did after the storm,” Bedford said. “God was here on April 27 and he’s still here today.”
Nick Alexander, who lived nearby and whose home was destroyed in the storm, said the monument is a fitting tribute to those who were lost.
“It shows the love of this community and keeps us all together,” he said.
“I think this is a good way to honor the victims and the ones who helped us. It’s something we will never forget.”