CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Parker family was back home Thursday, six months after a tornado churned through their neighborhood.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee first lady Chrissy Haslam, with other state and local officials, a crowd of neighbors, first responders and storm recovery volunteers gathered around the front porch on Eggleston Drive to mark the occasion.
"This is how a community comes together," the governor said.
He remembered being in Southeast Tennessee the day after the April 27 tornadoes ripped neighborhoods apart and killed nearly two dozen people in Bradley and Hamilton counties.
"At the end of the day, government can do about this much," Haslam said, raising his hand with two fingers separated a short distance. "But all of us together can do a whole lot more," he said, spreading his arms.
Earlier Thursday morning, Haslam visited the new Whirlpool construction site.
State Rep. Kevin Brooks. R-Cleveland, introduced Haslam to the crowd. "April 27 was a very difficult day for thousands of Bradley Countians," Brooks said. "Representative [Eric] Watson and I had many conversations late into the night and early into the morning."
Thursday's ceremony began with a hymn sung by the Lee Singers and the ringing of a bell, once each for the nine lives lost here in the storms.
Sandy Parker remembered April 27 when "I was sitting and playing on my computer. My son and husband were out in the front yard watching the wind. All of a sudden they came in and said 'get in the hall and lay down.' And before we got in there all of our windows started exploding," she said.
She and daughter Jessica were praying. Son Cody was holding onto them. Terry Parker was trying to hold the door closed.
Kent Berry, a local builder, said it was tough to convince Parker to let others help with the rebuild.
But the volunteers, from churches, Habitat for Humanity, neighbors and the Long Term Recovery Committee, worked with the Parkers over the past six months.