Rebuilding is one thing, recovering is another

Police investigate storm damage in east Charlotte.


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 22 at 11:38 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Recover, rebuild and move on.

It’s what victims of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma will do. But, that’s no easy task for so much devastation.

Go to the Brookstead neighborhood and you’ll find people doing the same thing, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Several homes there were damaged when a tornado struck in the middle of the night on March 3, 2012. Nobody died.

It was an EF-2 tornado with winds around 135 miles an hour.  It hit a couple of neighborhoods and caused a path of destruction 200 yards wide and 3.2 miles long. A total of 192 homes were damaged or destroyed in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties.

Neighbors say a home destroyed in the tornado more than a year ago was torn down just a few weeks ago.  It’s now an empty mud-filled lot covered with hay.

A concrete foundation is all that remains of another home in Brookstead.  It’s where the tornado picked up a boy and tossed him into the woods.

Rebecca Garrison's run through Brookstead takes her past those landmarks.

“I guess eventually they will build it back,” she said.

The tornado destroyed the house across the street from Ray Carter. Crews started rebuilding it a few months ago, he said.

Neighbors say some families affected by the tornado have trickled back.

"In the last few months, really, people finally moved back in with the repairs done,” Garrison said.

Others, including some of Carter's children's friends, have not.

"We still stay in touch with them, but it changed your whole community,” he said.

Most of the debris is gone, but not all.

"It just took a long time,” Garrison said.

Neighbors say the emotional toll the tornado took might be the worst damage of all. They still feel it more than a year later.

"It's just like after Hugo came, when the wind started blowing again, you'd get like, kind of terrified,” Garrison said.

"It never leaves,” said Carter.

Especially his son, who gets antsy and upset any time strong storms come through the area.

"He sleeps with his sneakers on just in case it happens again, so it's definitely an emotional rollercoaster,” Carter said.

Carter turned to his church for emotional support.  He keeps a Bible in his truck. Everyone in the family knows the spot in the house to run to for shelter if another tornado hits.

Rebuilding is one thing, but recovering isn't as easy to define.

Their thoughts and prayers go to tornado victims in Oklahoma.