After the storm: Cherokee Valley survivor seeks 'new normal'
(WRCB) - Catoosa County has few areas as beautiful as Cherokee Valley Road. But no area suffered more during the tornadoes of April 27, 2011.
All but one of Catoosa County's nine deaths occurred here, including a family of four. And for those spared, the rebuilding can be complicated.
"We had already reconciled ourselves to the fact that we were unable to rebuild," Myra Cochran says.
Six months after the storm, what had been her 4,000-square foot home was down to a slab. Fire took what the winds hadn't.
"The insurance company wrote us a check and we were under-insured," Cochran says.
She had nothing, after paying off the mortgage. But two months ago, she broke ground for a new home.
Or rather, volunteers did.
Dozens, from Catoosa's Organization to Aid In Disasters, to Christian Aid Ministries.
"From Methodists, to Church of God, to Baptists, to whomever," she says. From all over the United States, they've come in and helped us build our house back."
"Donated labor, donated materials, donated everything!"
They've worked so quickly, on what will be a 1,400 square foot cottage, that it could have been ready by Friday.
"But it's possible we will have to clean the acreage before we can move in," she says.
All 47 surrounding acres. Loggers, Cochran claims, have left truckloads of debris, much of which is a fire hazard.
"She'd never get that done," Catoosa County Building Inspector Rick Quarles says. "She need clear only the area surrounding her house. But we will have to check her electrical wiring, to make sure it's properly installed, and up to code."
That could come next week. Cochran could be in her new home by mid-May.
"People just don't realize when they come through what it's like for us, it's like a funeral," Cochran says. "Gawkers and rubber-neckers have just been the worst."
But the flip side? Neighbors, and once perfect strangers, at their best.
"It changes you," Cochran says. "It makes you appreciate the things that you never thought of. And things that were so important, are not important to you."
One more step, in the journey to a new 'normal.'