Volunteers came together Friday morning across Washington and Smyth Counties to plant lasting reminders of the recovery process that are designed to grow with the communities.
United Way Virginia Highlands and the Long Term Recovery Project teamed up to plant trees in several areas as reminders of the rebuilding from the 2011 storms.
We wanted to learn more on how these trees are being looked at as more than just plants, but as a significant statement about the recovery.
Damaged trees still stand tangled together behind Glade Middle School, a constant reminder of how the community changed forever April 27, 2011.
Eighth grader Sarah O'Bryan lost her home. "It's a day I made it through something that I shouldn't have," she told us.
One day shy of the two-year anniversary of the storms, Sarah O'Bryan and her classmates are just a few of the volunteers digging in to help keep the recovery process going. Volunteers spent Friday planting 41 trees across Washington and Smyth Counties.
Glade Spring arborist Kevin Sigmon helped out on the project. "With these tree plantings what we are trying to do is trying to get the landscape back to its normal condition, back to what it was pre-April 27, 2011," he told us.
Anastasia Thomas heard about the project going on in the Glade Town Square and wanted to know how her family could get involved. "When we were affected by the tornado it hurt a lot of people," she said. "It's good for people to come together and do this."
About 20 years from now when these trees are fully grown like some of the other trees in town, folks can come back with future generations and talk about the tornado of 2011 and how the community came together to help each other.
The 41 trees are just a fraction of the number of trees lost during the storm but organizers hope this gives residents a feeling that the recovery has not stopped. "People don't see these scared trees, they see the new trees and realize Glade is recovering, Glade is moving on," Sigmon said.
Sarah O'Bryan told us life will never be the same again, but the storm's anniversary is a chance to remember how far the community has recovered. "We are getting used to everything being gone, and we are a stronger community. We know we can make it through almost anything," she said.
Close to 100 volunteers came out to help plant the trees today at nine different locations across Washington and Smyth Counties. The trees were paid for through a Department of Forestry grant.
The effort is being coordinated by United Way Virginia Highlands and the Washington County Long Term Recovery Group.