Four dogwood trees, donated by the Trees for Ringgold program, were planted on the school campus — three for former TCE students Chelsea Black, Cody Black and Adam "Tex" Carroll and one for TCE's first principal, Rhea McClanahan.
Markers will be placed at the foot of each tree, signifying the impact each life had on the Tiger Creek commu-nity. Scout Pack 3504 helped plant the trees and were present at the ceremony to assist principal Rodney Thomp-son with the dedication. Thompson said many of the TCE students are from the Cherokee Valley community, which was severely hit by the storm, and they knew the families of the victims.
“The families who make up Tiger Creek are very closely tied to the school, the community and each other,” Thompson said. “The tragedy of what happened to the families affected by the tornado is something that touched the lives of everyone connected to the school, so it was our hope in having our ceremony we helped in the healing process.”
Thompson said he was glad they could honor the former principal in at least a small way and dedicated one of the centrally located white dogwoods for McClanahan. One of the pink dogwoods was placed on the side of the steps going to the parking lot, where he had seen Chelsea “come and go” many times, even as recently as the day of the storm.
“Chelsea was an elementary student, but she was also involved in a program that allows high school students in-terested in possibly teaching to volunteer in the classroom,” Thompson said. “She returned to TCE several times a week and was actually at the school the day the tornado struck. She was a beautiful, vibrant young woman whose only desire was ‘to become a kindergarten teacher someday.’ This was a tremendous loss not only to us, but to the children she would have influenced.”
Aside from what the trees mean to the students and faculty of TCE, Thompson said letting the families know of their plans was also special. Chelsea's aunt, Patti Stevens, was present for the service. McClanahan’s daughter, Vida Rush, although unable to attend, said she and the McClanahan family were very pleased to know what TCE was doing to honor him.
Faculty and students agreed the one-year anniversary for the storm was the perfect day to hold the ceremony. Amy Wright, TCE media specialist, described the dedication as very “bittersweet.”
“Tiger Creek students are the ones that have been living in the midst of the devastation of the tornado,” Wright said. “Many of them lost their homes and some lost family members. Most of them ride past the destruction of the Cherokee Valley every day. I think it was great for them to learn that even through scary and difficult events, they have teachers, a principal, a community and a God that loves and cares for them.”