On Monday, Park View Elementary School in Cleveland, Tenn., will be filled with students and teachers again after closing for eight school days following the April 27 tornadoes.
But during those days, the school wasn’t just sitting empty.
Behind its walls, Principal Deb Bailey and local volunteer Jerry Redman collected case after case of water, personal supplies and nonperishable foods. An entire hallway at the school was stacked with supplies yards deep and 10 feet tall in spots.
In her conference room, Bailey held hands with tornado victims and shed tears for their losses.
She allowed them a safe place to collect their thoughts, plan their next steps and gather supplies that sustained them through the storm’s immediate aftermath.
And the school served also as an outlet for Bradley County residents to make donations and to help their neighbors.
By noon on the day after the tornadoes, “We already had donations and were helping people,” Bailey said.
Many of the donations came by Redman and Bailey making requests through the online social networks Twitter and Facebook.
“If we Tweeted it, it came,” Bailey said, noting that one Atlanta family loaded their private airplane with supplies for three trips to Cleveland in the days after the storm.
“We literally served thousands of meals,” Redman said. “Thousands of people came through to get goods, personal care items and water.”
At first, Bailey said most victims were numb to their loss, but as the days progressed, the gravity of their situation began to sink in.
“We’ve seen a lot of tears today,” Bailey said last week. “I would just ask them ‘Are you OK?’ and then the tears would come.”
Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...