RINGGOLD, CATOOSA COUNTY, GA. (WRCB)-- Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, spent Mother's Day in Ringgold touring the tornado devastation.
The secretary called those impacted by last week's storms, 'survivors' not 'victims'. She spoke directly to those who lost their homes, urging them to begin the process with FEMA immediately.
"God bless the people that got hurt and injured in Ringgold," says 11-year-old Boynton Elementary student, Tripp Church. Sentiments echoed by Napolitano.
"It's Mother's Day and they're heading out there to do another clean up shift," Napolitano says.
The secretary arrived in Ringgold Sunday morning, touring devastation by air and on the ground, finding a keepsake along Cherokee Valley road.
"Obviously somebody had a card collection," Napolitano says, a tattered baseball card in hand. "These are the kinds of things that mean so much to people."
Across town 11-year-old Church spent his last day out of school with his family, helping clean up in the devastated neighborhood behind Ringgold High School.
"Helped pick up glass, broken pots," he says. It's the efforts of volunteers like Church that impressed Secretary Napolitano, eleven days into recovery.
"The recovery is already moving along and it's moving along quite well," Napolitano says.
Napolitano pledged help to homeowners, cities and counties with recovery expenses. She emphasized the immediate task is relocating those whose homes are complete destroyed.
"If we can repair damage before the next set of rains, we might be able to get some people back in their original homes," she says. "Without spending months and months in a rental property."
If you haven't registered with FEMA, do so by calling 1-800-621-FEMA. Call lines are open from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m. local time, 7 days a week. You can also register online at www.disasterassistance.gov. Or on your smartphone at m.fema.gov.