CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)--"It's just getting our economy back, I think. I'm just ready for all of them to get back to where [they] were," said longtime Ringgold resident Angela Vinyeard of the Taco Bell and other recovering businesses in northwest Georgia.
Thursday's re-opening of the fast food location on Old Alabama Highway may not mean a hill of refried beans to most folks outside the Tennessee Valley, but for those who are regulars in Ringgold it's another sign of continuing recovery following the April 27th tornadoes. The restaurant was heavily damaged.
The re-opening began with a ribbon cutting, followed by an influx of ravenous customers-- including 10 year old Hunter Bradford--ready to dine at their revived hot spot just off interstate 75's exit 348.
"I have to have my fast food restaurants or I just can't stand it," exclaimed Hunter.
For many residents like Hunter's dad, Dan, it's more about showing support and being grateful for the resilient comeback Ringgold has made so far.
"It's really amazing, and we're thankful, and that's the reason we're here today," said Bradford.
Assistant Manager Terry Bennett, on duty the night of the tornado, has also had a hard time wrapping his head around the progress made in the community.
"Being in the store that night when the storm hit and then seeing it from this point on is just amazing," said Bennett. He's incredibly gracious for everyone's patronage as the city rebuilds.
"When the community supports you as much as you support the community, it means a lot," Bennett added.
Even Ringgold High School principal Sharon Vaughn was on hand at the celebration. She's glad another one of her students' hangouts is back on its feet.
"They care about their community. They love Ringgold and so they're not going to let it die. They will hang in there 'til the bitter end," Vaughn said of her students and the community.
The high school also suffered extensive damage and received a check for $5,000 from the Taco Bell corporation to assist in the school's recovery.
Also, Bennett was awarded a plaque for calmly protecting his employees and customers just before the tornado struck that late April night. No one in the store was injured.