20 years later: Volunteer looks back on deadly Valentine’s Day tornado

20 years later: Volunteer looks back on deadly Valentine’s Day tornado

CAMILLA , Ga. (WALB) - On Friday many people reflected on the Valentine’s Day Tornado that claimed 19 lives 20 years ago.

One volunteer made a huge difference in the recovery efforts.

On February 13, 2000, Laura Vann and her husband were simply Camilla residents getting ready for bed right after the tornado passed.

Laura Vann and WALB News 10′s Bobby Poitevint.
Laura Vann and WALB News 10′s Bobby Poitevint. (Source: walb)

However, it was a simple phone call that turned them into heroes overnight.

Laura said remembers the phone call from the hospital needing help.

"They knew if they called, we’d come. They needed help and when we got there it was more than we bargained for. They were bringing in people, eight and nine in an ambulance,” Laura reflected.

The recovery process after the deadly storm was a process that lasted 15 months, according to Laura.

She said one of the more disturbing stories after the tornado hit involved a mother and her children at the hospital. She said it’s a story that still haunts her today.

“I said, ‘Everybody’s here?’ And she said, ‘No, no they left my baby because she was dead and they had to bring the living and injured in first.’ And I said, ‘Well, you write down her name and I will stay in this hospital and be here when your baby comes.’ So, as a mother, the only thing I could tell her was I’d sit there and wait all day if I had to,” explained Laura.

A monument with names of those lost makes sure they are never forgotten.

Laura and others created a legacy by helping to have houses built in the area after the storm.

“And we were able to put together with the Mennonites, the Lutherans, the Apostolic Christians out of Illinois, 23 houses that were built. And because we knew these people and what they were capable of, we have, in 20 years, not lost one house to a foreclosure,” said Laura.

“We all go through adversities and if we just learn what our community learned at that time, and we need to stop sometimes now and remember, is that we’re all on the same page," Laura said. "We’re all gonna need help sometimes and it sure does makes things different and brings peace to our community when we remember what we went through together.”

Laura said that not only did she help provide homes for her community but she also built friendships that will continue to last a lifetime.

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