Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Storm of 1936

Christy here. April 6, 2011 will mark the 75th anniversary of three tornadoes that swept through my hometown of Gainesville, Georgia.

200 lives were lost. Gainesville basically had to rebuild in the aftermath. I'm including a video of photos that shows the devastation. Watch for the photograph of the clock, which stopped at the time the storm hit. And look for the old Confederate Soldier "Joe" who remained upright even after the storm barrelled over him.

This storm is as familiar to me as the Bible. Something I've grown up hearing about all my life. My maternal grandmother first sparked my interest when she told me she lived in Atlanta at the time, and that the morning turned black as the storms rushed over the state.

My paternal grandmother was not born yet, but her family lived in Gainesville during that time, and family still lives there today.

Almost eight years ago, I decided to write a novel set during this time. I began research, spent hours at the library looking through microfilm at old newspapers trying to get a feel of life and times. I started a rough first draft, then put the story down to work on a couple of contemporary pieces.

But this story never left me and last year, I decided to get serious about writing it. The historical footprint the tornado of '36 left will never be washed away in Gainesville. And I suppose these characters in my head will not leave me until I tell their story. 
The critical/editor side of me wonders how well my manuscript will do when it is complete, but the creative side of me reminds me that I cannot worry about that right now. I must get this story written. The desire to write it is too strong, I cannot write anything else until it's complete.

Recently, my paternal grandmother passed away. At her funeral, I was reunited with some of my cousins I hadn't seen in years. Brenda, one of my cousins, was talking to another relative of mine about genealogy and the conversation some how moved over to the storm of '36. As I happened to be standing nearby, my attention perked and I had to butt in. Luckily, my family didn't mind.

A couple of weeks later, I met with Brenda and she shared some old newspaper clippings her mother had saved. Some of these articles are from the 1960s and older.A gold mine for me! Thank you Brenda!

Last night, as I was procrastinating on Facebook, I found that my cousin Marcia had shared the video I'm embedding in this post. I read the comments of her friends and requested anyone who had a story to share to email me. I may never hear from anyone, but the fact that more material is made available to me, the more the story comes alive in my mind. I become more excited about writing the story, despite the lack of time I have and every other excuse that tries to get in the way of me writing it.

Have you ever thought you were called to write a story?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Those were hard photos to watch. In April 2009 my little town of Mena, Arkansas was devastated by a tornado. There were 3 deaths, 100 homes completely destroyed and 600 damaged.

    An Arkies Musings

  3. I'm so sorry Richies. I work in claims and I've got to say I'm paranoid when a storm comes through. I've heard too many stories. I hope your town is restored.

  4. Christy,
    Those pictures were amazing.
    You need to write your story. I think it's a great backdrop. And it's something you're passionate about. It will come across to your readers.

  5. Christy, Thanks for sharing that video. Even though you've heard the story all your life, I've never known about it and I'm only two states away. I think it would be the perfect setting for an historical set in that time period. Historicals are HUGE right now and I believe there is about to be a surge in colonial and 1920's and 30's settings.

    Japan's experience is sparking articles from so many journalists trying to understand how something like that can happen in our time period to a country that is so full of knowledge, technology and successful. Natural disasters have been happening since the world started, but we've only been able to watch it happen recently. We have such a false sense of control most of the time, but then something like that comes along and we are reminded. It will shake the foundation of those who stand on a false sense of security, but for those of us who live by faith--it is another moment in history that changed lives and will never be forgotten. We grief, move on and rebuild just like people have always done--and we remember. That's what you're story is about--remembering--and showing the strength of the people to move on and rebuild--to give others encouragement for the next time it happens.

  6. I meant to say that yes, you are most likely called to write this story!

  7. Christy, I think you must definitely be called if it won't leave you alone. Like Lindi said, your passion for the story will show.

    Thanks for sharing. I've heard about the tornadoes. Of course, we're only 45 minutes from Gainesville.

  8. Richies, I'm so sorry to hear about your town!