Five years after the tornado, a killer lurks in the debris

Catoosa County firefighter Nick O'Connell demonstrates the self-contained breathing apparatus that could keep firefighters safe from breathing asbestos.
photo Catoosa County firefighter Nick O'Connell demonstrates the self-contained breathing apparatus that could keep firefighters safe from breathing asbestos.

Minutes after tornadoes' winds ripped trees from the ground and hurled them into homes, flattened buildings and killed residents from Rainsville, Ala., to Ringgold, Ga., to Hamilton County, firefighters, volunteers from the Salvation Army, church groups and survivors were trying to help the injured.

In the pitch darkness of April 27, 2011, residents of Ringgold followed the sound of their neighbors' screams to dig survivors out of the debris, lifting boards, crushed plaster and torn tiles that they could not see. At 9 p.m., a boy called 911 from Apison in Hamilton County to alert the dispatcher that "a tornado passed through my neighborhood - power lines are down and people are calling for help."

Dispatcher: