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The series of tornadoes that ripped across the Southeast on Wednesday stole more than 300 people’s futures; Lecia Eubanks wants to make sure it doesn’t claim anyone’s past.
As director of the Cherokee Regional Library System, Eubanks oversees the Dade County Library, whose building — a temporary location while its main building on Trenton’s Court Street is undergoing repairs and renovations — was heavily whacked by the storm.
The building’s roof was ripped off by winds, exposing one-of-a-kind photographs, family histories, church records and newspapers to the harsh elements.
“The rest of the books in our collection, they can be replaced,” she said. “Not our local history and genealogy documents, so we’re being very careful.”
Eubanks and Debra Bradford, the library’s assistant manager, worked all through Thursday and Friday to save the community from further loss.
“They would lose their heritage, where they came from,” Bradford said. “[The documents] are just irreplaceable.”
A professional restoration company has begun the delicate process of pulling the damp documents from the mess of books, boxes and ceiling tiles that was serving as the library’s temporary location.
The storm caused two deaths and extensive damage in Dade County. From Mississippi through Virginia, the series of tornados spawned by the storms killed more than 300.
The Dade historical collection is the only one in Georgia to suffer extensive damage. Though Eubanks hopes documents will be salvaged, she said she has more immediate concerns.
Nearby residents without power or computers rely on the library for Internet access, she said. Without the public computers, many will be unable to file insurance claims or let family and friends know they’re safe.
“There are services that are essential to people right now in the duress that they’re in,” she said. “People are really missing our services right about now, when they really need to get in touch with loved ones, and that’s only going to increase for them.”
Georgia State Librarian Lamar Veatch already is working with federal officials to get help opening a new location for the Dade library branch. Ideally, he said, it will open a new temporary facility by next week.
“We want to do everything we can to get the important services up and running,” he said. “Information and communication, using the library services, is what we think will be very important to these people to get their lives up and running.”