"Everyone wants to help... because it's a neighborhood" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

"Everyone wants to help... because it's a neighborhood"

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(WRCB) - The Flintstone area in Northwest Georgia was hit hard on April 27, 2011. While most of the houses and roofs have been repaired or rebuilt, memories of life before and of the devastating storm remain. Residents are living a new normal.

In and around the Eagle Landing subdivision, near Flintstone, Georgia, a year has done a lot for clean-up, recovery, rebuilding, and re-roofing. Many of the homes look just as they did before the storm, though there are still pockets where Mother Nature's destruction is in plain sight.

We met Corey Brock enjoying the afternoon sun on his front patio. "Everybody that lives in this valley always thought the mountain would protect us," he said. "Obviously that's not true."

That was a mantra we would hear from nearly everyone with whom we spoke.

He, his wife and kids watched the whole, awful storm from their house a year ago. They were holding doors shut as two funnel clouds passed within yards of their property.

"Right here where we live, there are probably seven homes that were totally destroyed," he said.

Brock was fortunate to escape with roof damage. "Some neighbors are just now getting in," he told us. "The builders are getting finished."

"Everything was snapped, bent, broken, pushed over," John Vittiglio remembered of April 27th. The power was out, but he was safe at Pizza Italiano, his business. Two miles away, his wife and her mother were home, directly in harm's way.

"We have a door in the basement that you can see out of," Wanda Vittiglio explained. "I looked out that door and you couldn't see. It was swirling."

One of the huge columns on the front of their home was swept out of place and smashed on the driveway. It is said, for that to have happened, the roof had to be lifted three to four inches. Vittiglio covered her mother with pillows and blankets and rode the twister out, downstairs. "It sounded like the back of the house was being knocked off by a huge bulldozer," she remembered.

In the days after, the community came together. Brock praised the quick response of the Walker County Government, the road crews in particular. Neighbor jumped in to help neighbor.

"In this area," said Wanda Vittiglio,"people are very helpful and everybody wants to help each other, because it's a neighborhood and so many of us that live here have known each other for generations."

Strangers arrived with food, chainsaws and helping hands, as well.

"The Baptist volunteers, I didn't know that they had such and it's an international organization," John Vittiglio said, "they were up there the next day, clearing, helping us clear the way to the house. No charge, nothing asked. They were just a great bunch of people."

He added, "In this sea of destruction, to have about 20 guys with orange shirts all helping out to get us cleared and, at least, get us access, was just wonderful."

Today, there are still a few tarps; plywood over some windows. A couple of the houses look to be empty. A drive through Eagle Landing, though, seems to show life is back to normal. But, to longtime residents, that is not the case. Life continues, but things have changed.

"The neighborhood doesn't look the same," John Vittiglio said. "There was a house on the corner, it's gone." He tends to focus on the things that are missing. "We still look at the trees that are down, much of them now have little shrubs growing green around them," he added. "You don't see it all."

The voids in the once lush and tree-filled landscape seem to cause an interesting phenomenon. "The wind blows constantly here now," Brock explained. "I mean, now that there's not any trees."

And nerves remain a little frazzled. "Yesterday, the wind was blowing 25 miles an hour," said Brock, "and you sit there and say,'Well, what are we gonna do?'"

John Vittiglio added, "Now, when you're watching television and that 'Beep. Beep. Beep.' comes on and they say, 'Tornado until...,' I want to tell you, people around here get a little nervous. Some of them get a lot nervous. My wife gets a lot nervous."

"You have to just be optimistic," said Mrs. Vittiglio, "and hope for the best."

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