published Friday, December 16th, 2011

Bradley County family uprooted by April 27 tornadoes is back home

Brenda Fleischmann, left, wife of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, talks with Tim Garrett and his children Tyler and Makayla on Thursday.
Brenda Fleischmann, left, wife of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, talks with Tim Garrett and his children Tyler and Makayla on Thursday.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
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  • photo
    Tim Garrett speaks with the media inside his new home in Bradley County, Tenn., on Thursday. The Bradley County Long Term Recovery Organization has completed their first home, and held a ceremony to give the home to the Garrett family Thursday.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Tim Garrett family will be home for Christmas.

When they left their Lead Mine Valley home, it was April 27 and the valley was being ravaged by tornadoes.

Garrett and his two teenage children, Makayla and Tyler, went across the ridge behind their house to his sister's home. There, they and other family members rode out the destructive night.

On Thursday, after months of work by the Bradley County Long Term Recovery Organization, Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, Sunrise Rotary Club, K.A.C.E. Development, family and friends, the family cut a ribbon in front of their new home.

It is the first total home rebuild to be completed through the recovery organization.

Case manager Lisa Mantooth said two other homes are under construction and three more are planned.

But Thursday a crowd gathered in front of the new Garrett home. Brenda Fleischmann, wife of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, gave the family a Christmas ornament. Finnell gave them their new house keys.

"We were all in the basement," Garrett's sister, Kathy Keller, said of that April day. There were about a dozen family members there.

"Some had gone outside, and we knew it [the tornado] was coming when they all ran in," she recalled.

Later in the night Garrett tried to get back home.

"But there were trees down and blocking the way," Keller said. "It was so bad, you really couldn't see till the next morning."

  • photo
    Tim Garrett talks to the media outside his new home in Bradley County, Tenn., on Thursday. The Bradley County Long Term Recovery Organization has completed their first home, and held a ceremony to give the home to the Garrett family Thursday.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Garrett recalled that when he saw his house the next morning there was "destruction everywhere. It was a total mess."

It was his sister, Garrett said, who put him in touch with the recovery organization.

"I met with him and talked about his needs," organization volunteer case worker Wayne Finnell said. "His biggest concern was, with two teenagers, when winter came they had no place to live."

Finnell is a pastoral counselor for the Southern Baptist Association and a disaster relief chaplain.

"I never thought I would serve as a disaster relief chaplain in my hometown," he said.

The United Way's Matt Ryerson welcomed guests Thursday including elected officials, Garrett family members and friends. He noted that the last major tornado strike in Bradley County was in 1974; that the Federal Emergency Management Agency designated this year's Bradley tornado as case number 1974; and the Garretts live at 1974 Lead Mine Valley Road.

The Lake Forest Middle School choir Revolution opened the ceremonies with "I'll Be Home For Christmas."

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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