Memorial Day is a time to remember America’s fallen soldiers, but at this year’s annual Memorial Day Civil War reenactment at Tannehill State Park in Bucksville, Ala., the lives lost in the recent tornado outbreak were also memorialized.
After Saturday’s mock Civil War battle reenactors dressed in blue and gray 19th Century military uniforms lined up and fired a salute in memory of American soldiers. They also fired a salute in memory of those who died in the tornados that destroyed numerous small towns and affected thousands of people throughout the eastern United States. Three hundred twenty one people in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia died in a tornado outbreak that began on April 25th and ended April 28. Of those deaths 235 were in Alabama.
“The tornados laid waste to so many lives in Alabama. Many of our reenactors lost loved ones and for us not to remember them in our salute would be very, very wrong,” said Ken Sumner, president of the Alabama Division of Reenactors.
Sumner, from Northwest, Ga., was not spared the fury of the tornado outbreak of April 27. On that day Sumner said there were three tornados at one time over his home in Cedar Town, Ga. “One tornado hit 200 yards from my house,” he said.
For many of the spectators and reenactors the event at the state park served as a means to get away from the new reality the tornados have brought.
For John Robertson, a reenactor from Tuscaloosa- a town hit by an EF 4 tornado on April 27th- attending the event served as a respite from the the reality in Tuscaloosa.
“It puts some normalcy on things and takes away from the dread of having to drive through Alberta City,” Robertson said referring to a district in Tuscaloosa that President Barack Obama visited just days after the twister killed 41 people in the West Alabama town.
Reenactor Kristin Land, 16, of Rainsville, a small town in Northeast Alabama, said she remembers the fear she felt looking at the sky just before a EF-4 tornado touched down a mile from her house on April 27th.
“I was doing the afternoon dishes and the sky was a green color. It was very scary. My dad said ‘we gotta go’ and we went to the basement,” said Land, dressed in an opulent 19th Century ball gown.
Land said during the tornado one tree fell on the house and 100 more were downed on her parents 40-acre farm. Land later viewed the mile-wide devastation at the tornado’s epicenter.
"It looked like a huge plane swooped down and crashed.”
Land said attending the Tannehill reenactment helps remove her from the memories of the tornados. “It’s so peaceful and it’s nice to see an area not so devastated,” Land said sitting in a shade cast by a forest of trees.
The Memorial Day reenactment continues Sunday from 9-4 at the park.
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