Perrington, pastor of Ringgold United Methodist Church in Ringgold, addressed more than 1,000 people in the Ringgold High School gym Friday night, April 27, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the F4 tornado that destroyed 11 miles of the rural Ringgold community, lasting 13 minutes and leaving eight dead.
After describing the days and months following the harrowing event, Perrington ended his speech with a posi-tive message reiterating the theme of the service, “From storm to strength.”
“This is the day that God sent people and we survived,” Perrington said. “This is the day we became stronger, to-gether; that we really remembered what mattered and what was inconsequential; that we changed forever in a great, good, needed way; that we remembered what we had long known and that is that God does not always prevent the storms, yet He’ll never leave us alone. We rose up and grew stronger. This is the day that we gather together to remember always from whence our help comes. … This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and give thanks for it.”
Seven churches collaborated for the event. Volunteers from all walks of the community participated, helping with the setup of the pre-service food and drinks. Ringgold United Methodist Church hospitality coordinator Susan Gibson said most of the food for the event was donated and they gave away more than 1,000 hotdogs.
“We had 40 or 50 volunteers,” Gibson said. “They were cooking, wrapping, cleaning. We had a lot of Kiwanis members that came and church members that came. I had people who called me and just asked if they could help. It’s been amazing. It’s a community thing.”
Inside, guests enjoyed a community choir performance and a worship service. An ensemble from the Ringgold High School band, under the direction of band director Robin Christian, accompanied the choir. Four pastors spoke briefly between inspirational slideshows of storm survivor interviews and footage from the storm.
Ringgold principal Sharon Vaughn, Catoosa County manager Mike Helton and Catoosa deputy Gary Sisk also spoke about the influence of the storm on their lives and expressed their gratitude to the community for the support and rebuilding efforts. Phil Ledbetter, chair of Catoosa Organization Acting in Disaster (COAD), emceed the event.
Randall Franks, Ringgold city council member, also led the unveiling of a memorial in honor of those who lost their lives in the storm. The plaque, which will be placed in the children’s park in downtown Ringgold, was pre-sented to mayor Joe Barger.
“Ringgold is the people of Ringgold,” Barger said. “That’s what makes us so beautiful.”