The devastating tornado that occurred on April 9, 1999, is the worst disaster to take place in the city of Montgomery. Four lives were lost on that tragic day, two of them Montgomery residents, Lee and Jacque Cook, who left behind two young adult children – Shannyn and Ryan. The aftermath of the tornado also left over 200 homes heavily damaged and 30 homes completely destroyed. It was the beginning of a normal spring day that forever altered the lives of so many.
To honor those in our community who suffered loss, the City hosted a 20-year Remembrance Ceremony on the campus of Sycamore High School, home of a respite area that was installed as a permanent memorial of the tornado and nearest to the area experiencing the heaviest damage. Those in attendance shared stories of the devastation and ensuing display of true humanity including victims, first responders, and volunteers who came together to help those in need.
The tornado was certainly a defining moment for our community, not because of the devastation of the event, but because of the way our community came together to help those in need. Nearly 3,000 volunteers, mutual aid responders, and Montgomery employees/officials spent thousands of hours lending aid and comfort during the initial response, recovery, and healing.
Recounting these memorable stories of our residents coming together to support those in need is just another example of why the City of Montgomery is truly a special community. A real community is more than a group of people living in the same geographic area – it is a group of people that care about each other and feel they belong together – that is a true community and is displayed every day by our residents regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or social circle.
City Council and City staff will continue to focus on the critical strategic items ensuring Montgomery will continue to be the premier community of choice for generations to come, providing best-in-class city services (police, fire, recreation, public works, etc.), infrastructure, parks, amenities, connectivity, and opportunities for citizen engagement.
I ask that each of you to continue to focus on the most important aspect of a sustainable community: engaging with your neighbors, in open and honest dialogue to build relationships where you care about each other and feel you belong together.