published Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

The year since the April 27 tornadoes has been better, but not easy

Frank and Brenda Taylor sit in the living room of their new log cabin in Ider, Al. as they talk about surviving an EF5 tornado that leveled their home last April. The Taylors were trapped beneath debris in their basement until neighbors came to their rescue, and they were eventually evacuated to a hospital in Chattanooga by members of the Ider Rescue Squad.
Frank and Brenda Taylor sit in the living room of their new log cabin in Ider, Al. as they talk about surviving an EF5 tornado that leveled their home last April. The Taylors were trapped beneath debris in their basement until neighbors came to their rescue, and they were eventually evacuated to a hospital in Chattanooga by members of the Ider Rescue Squad.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The storms, rebuilding and recollections
  • photo
    Frank and Brenda Taylor's new log cabin in Ider, Al. The Taylors were trapped beneath debris in their basement until neighbors came to their rescue after their home was leveled by an EF5 tornado last April, and they were eventually evacuated to a hospital in Chattanooga by members of the Ider Rescue Squad.
    Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A year later, the ambulance is repaired and back in service, the Ider Rescue Squad cooks meals for volunteers rebuilding homes, and Frank and Brenda Taylor live in a new log cabin.

Life is more normal than they ever thought it could be that chaotic night.

But that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy year.

“We had to learn to look beyond the devastation and think about what it will look like after it is rebuilt,” Brenda Taylor said.

Most of their neighbors who lost homes in the same EF5 tornado are also back in new houses. But the treeline on Pea Ridge, where they first glimpsed the funnel headed their way, is still full of gaps. With no trees to block it, the wind blows constantly, swirling dust from the construction sites and freshly planted lawns.

They chose to build a log cabin because it muffles the sound of the wind and storms and seems safer, Frank Taylor said. The two of them did much of the work, despite Frank’s injured shoulder.

A recently planted pink dogwood blooms outside; they planted more than a dozen trees to bring some life to the barren area.

Frank Taylor had surgery on his shoulder to repair his crushed rotator cuff. He lifts his arm above his head to show how much surgery and therapy have improved it.

The first months were difficult; their life was mostly lived out of plastic tote boxes and a spiral notebook. During the struggle to piece their lives back together, Brenda Taylor remembers the day she made the decision to switch from being a victim to a survivor.

“The good Lord said, ‘This is not what I’ve got in mind for you,’” she said. “And it just clicked. We try to build on the positive, to create times to be together.”

Most of the things in their new home were either salvaged or given to them by friends and strangers. A purple parasol — their daughter’s — and a stool are among other items they found from their former house, and they are now displayed in a special alcove above the living room.

The home is sparsely furnished.

“It seems like a waste to buy something you don’t need; shopping for things doesn’t mean anything,” Brenda Taylor said. “It changes your perspective on everything. You realize how quickly it can be gone and how unimportant it is.”

Frank Taylor added, “You live life every day because, hey, there may not be another one.”

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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