Anyone who viewed the vast destruction along Alabama Highway near Interstate 75 in Ringgold, Ga., in the aftermath of April's tornadoes and storms can be forgiven if they thought it would take years rather than weeks or months to restore vitality to the once-thriving commercial area. Subsequent events, however, have proved that view to be overly pessimistic.
A few businesses like Wendy's and local landmark restaurant Aunt Effies suffered very little damage and were able to reopen not too long after the storm. Most of the others, though, were so heavily damaged that reconstruction has yet to begin. It is noteworthy then that Taco Bell, a fixture along the roadway, is back in business. Its grand reopening on Thursday signals in a small but positive way that the community is returning to normalcy.
Other business are sure to follow the lead of Taco Bell. Indeed, a Ringgold official says that many other business along the highway already have submitted plans or told the city that they plan to reopen. Still, Taco Bell is the first - a distinction not lost on the restaurant's proprietors, its employees, its customers or the community at large.
Workers, many of them students, were happy to return to jobs lost after the storms. Patrons apparently were in a hurry to return to a favorite dining spot. Two customers, in fact, drove into the parking lot Thursday before the official reopening ceremonies were finished. Within moments, it was business as usual for the restaurant.
The return of that sort of normalcy is a positive sign for Ringgold. It will take a while for the city to completely rebuild its commercial foundation, but the Thursday reopening is a strong indication that movement toward that goal has commenced.