On September 16, 2010, around 7 p.m., a tornado ripped through parts of Athens County and West Virginia.
In the aftermath, many residents were left to deal with the destruction and devastation, rebuilding their homes and sifting through rubble for their possessions.
WOUB asked contributors to submit their pictures of what remained after the storm ravaged their communities.
Angela Brauer contributed her memory of the tornado, along with her images:
While I am a former WOUB alum and OU alum, at that time, I found myself to be another Athens resident. I was the Athens High School Assistant Girls Soccer coach in the fall of 2010. We had just entered the second half of our game against rival Alexander when my roommates texted me letting me know of a storm headed Southeast from Logan. We were directly in the storm's path.
Minutes later, the referees called the game and both teams took shelter in various places due to lightning. We were obligated to wait 30 minutes after seeing lightning, but knowing the valley does not get tornadoes, I drove up to the main building to pick up the team's new warm ups. As I returned to the locker room where we were taking shelter, the clouds turned an odd color and wind picked up. Before I knew it, the team and myself were huddled in the center of the small building crouching.
High schoolers were crying, coaches were yelling and consoling, and after what seemed like a lifetime, we got up and went outside to find an absolutely destroyed stadium that had literally minutes before been what those soccer players called home. I cannot describe the sights I saw first, because I immediately started texting, calling and tweeting about the tornado.
It was headed directly for campus if it continued the same path. Luckily, it did not continue and the only areas affected were outside of campus. The sky was still dark and yellow when we walked outside to inspect the damage.
We heard sirens from every direction, we saw people running and crying, bleeding, and some barely able to stand up in disbelief. It was like something out of a movie. I think the most difficult thing for me during this time was not grasping what had just happened, but rather, the transition it took for me to help others. As a 21-year-old who was barely out of college, all of my life, people had been protecting me. Within seconds without expecting it, I was expected to protect others, the girls I coached, the girls I was somewhat in charge of. Their parents put trust in a 21-year-old college student, and through that time, I did what they had expected of anyone overseeing their children without having to think about it.
I spent the entire night, while my fellow WOUBers covered the tornado, doing phone interviews, live interviews and sending pictures to other media outlets across Ohio. I wanted to cover the tornado, but I was scheduled to go out of town, and besides, the personal connection of actually being in the middle of the storm was enough that night. Since then, I can honestly say it was probably the worst storm I have ever been in. Yet, I am so glad I was...and it made me even more connected to the Athens community and Athens High School.
Unlike most alum from that area, I came out not just as an OU grad, but a former resident and employee of Athens, Ohio. I am so happy that field was rebuilt - everything happens for a reason! It looks beautiful and I hope to revisit the team and the old Basil Rutter Stadium one day.
Rev. Joel Harbarger, Pastor, The Plains UMC shares this memory with WOUB: The choir was rehearsing in the The Plains UMC when one of the members (who came in a little late) exclaimed that a storm was coming and they should leave the Sanctuary and move away from the huge windows. They did and they found a family or two waiting in the lobby area. They had heard that a storm was coming and thought the church would be a safe place. It was.
Nobody knew what was coming, but it still came with a vengeance! The power went out, but the water and gas was still on. The State Troopers shut the town down and the traffic stopped. I (and later on, a church member) waited at the church until very late waiting for any people who would be seeking shelter. Nobody came, so they went to their homes around 2 a.m.
The next morning, I slept in a bit, decided that my wife and I would go into Athens to get some breakfast and deposit my paycheck. We stopped by the church building to pick up my check and found people opening the doors to our Family Life Center (gym). I decided to go in and see what was going on. Without any prompting, church members had decided to pull some peanut butter out of the pantry to make some peanut butter sandwiches. Another member had brought the fixings to make potato soup. We had peanut butter sandwiches. We had water to drink. We were going to have soup. We had food to feed our neighbors.
And then it begins …
Some members started to talk to retailers in The Plains and rescued loads of frozen dinners to heat up. Other members arrived, found candles and moved into a dark kitchen (no windows!), fired up the stove and ovens and started to cook the rescued food.
Somebody made a handmade “Free Food” sign and neighbors started to show up to eat. We started feeding. A guy with a gas grill showed up and started to cook. Some people were working on getting a generator so we could run a few lights and the refrigerators & freezers. The Relief Effort had begun.
A Baptist Church in Gallipolis called up a men’s ministry near Albany called “The Refuge” and asked their catering ministry “Nelson’s Catering” to come up and make some BBQ chicken dinners for us. Nelson’s ended up staying for the week and between us (Nelson’s, The Plains UMC and generous volunteers) we ended up serving some 10,000 meals to our neighbors in the short (but incredibly long!) 8 days that we offered The Plains UMC as the hub of the Tornado Relief Effort.
People would call and ask what we needed. I would tell them and then we would be buried in that item. People would call and ask what help we needed and they would come out and serve, clean, organize, deliver, whatever was asked. We never had to put out pleas for anything. We never had to beg for volunteers. The people of the Athens area simply came and volunteered for everything.
Shortly thereafter, the Long Term Recover Committee was founded and, through the generosity of the Athens area, the people who simply walked up to me and put money in my hand in small amounts that amounted to a lot of money, as well as the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR), a team of caseworkers worked with the people affected by the Tornado who didn’t have insurance nor qualified for governmental relief.
At this point, we have nearly completed all the work and folks are putting their lives back together. A year later, and The Plains UMC is still involved in the lives and hearts of the people of the Athens and The Plains area.
We often talk that this was the best week of our lives and we hope to never do it again!