Americus looks back with a celebration and a big donation - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Americus looks back with a celebration and a big donation

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February 29, 2008

Americus-  One year ago Saturday, an EF-3 tornado tore through the heart of Americus. It killed two people and destroyed the hospital and medical community. The clean up effort started the next day and continues today. Despite being a year later for many it feels like it was just yesterday and it's not anything they'll soon forget.

Vivid images of the storm's force caught on Sumter Regional's surveillance cameras aren't easily forgotten, nor are the images Simeal Cromer saw as she pulled up to the hospital and helped pull patients from the rubble to safety.

"The patient's faces, they were like, they didn't know what to do, but we were always there so, they always had help," said Simeal Cromer, a Certified medical Assistant.

It's been hardest on the medical community to bounce back.

"It has definitely been a challenge trying to get patients admitted and dealing with the Albany hospitals they have been so generous, but it's definitely been a challenge," said Lynn Lightner, a Registered Nurse.

It hasn't been easy for residents either. The street President George Bush walked surveying the damage still has homes in need of repairs. The experience of meeting the President left James Miles speechless.

"I can't put it into words, I can't put it into words how it was," said James Miles.

The house where Jerry Dukes and Carrie Willis were killed is gone and in its place a new duplex is going up. It's a symbol that the community has healed, but hasn't forgotten what happened a year ago.

"We know it can happen now and to certainly take weather advisories serious," said Lightner.

"People are more friendly more than they use to be I think it was a blessing," said Miles.

The demolitions of Sumter Regional Hospital should be complete by April. Construction on a new hospital will start in October and take three years.

To mark the first anniversary of the Americus tornado, the American Red Cross that did so much in the days following the storm, will hold a community celebration. The event will kick off at one o'clock Saturday with a softball game between the real heroes of March first, firefighters and police officers.

The match up will be held at the recreation fields on Highway 19. Saturday's event promises something for everyone.

"We've tried to target every age level with our seniors with our Gospel singing down tow our young children. We have a munchkin walk that will be like a cake walk and we have slides and jumping castles and then at 7:00 for the younger people we have Brett Cobb coming in who is a Nashville star," said Leisa Cross, American Red Cross Director.

Proceeds from the day will help the Red Cross.

An anonymous donor gave the Sumter Regional Hospital Foundation its largest single donation, one million dollars.

The foundation continues to raise money for the construction of a new hospital. Insurance won't cover the entire cost, that leaves the hospital millions of dollars short. It's why they're looking for support from several sources.

"We are working with state and federal organizations that fund construction or equipment or even medical programs. We're also working with our business and industry community both in those local community and statewide," said Brenda McMillan Sumter Regional Hospital Foundation.

So far, the hospital foundation has raised a little more than three million dollars.

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