Bartow families picking up, moving on | ajc.com


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

John Boatwright talked a little Friday about rebuilding life and restoration as he sweated beside a hot grill, cooking hot dogs and chicken in the tornado-flattened community of Crowe Springs outside of Cartersville

“I had a second chance at life,” the 57-year-old Boatwright said.

The self-professed former down-and-outer on the streets of downtown Atlanta was given hope by a minister from Bartow County, Wesley Morris, who came to feed the homeless once a month.

Friday, Boatwright was bringing some of that love back to Bartow County as people there took the first steps in rebuilding their lives.

When God gives you an opportunity to understand your past and the gift of grace and get your life back together, it changes you, he said.

“So now I’m giving it back,” he said.

Boatwright was among a swarm of friends, family and supporters helping the rural community as people calmly — and sometimes even with laughs — picked their way through a splintered forest of two-by-fours that had been houses. As they worked, clouds of pink and yellow insulation waved from trees that were standing at every angle but straight up.

Knowing the death tolls in Alabama and northwest Georgia, they recognized in every family member’s face a gift of a day that might not have been. No one here was killed or even seriously injured, though a dozen houses were shredded. An estimated 50 to 75 houses in nearby communities just east of I-75 were destroyed or damaged.

John Williams and his family — his wife, Cristina, their 4-year-old son, Kohl, and daughter, Abigail, 14  months — climbed out from under rubble Wednesday with the only wound being a gash in John’s back. He looked at the bare foundation that had been their house and rejoiced.

“I said, “We’re alive, and I love you, and we made it through,’ ” Williams recalled.

Thursday, they spent recovering.

Friday was a day of salvaging.

A family member found a cameo of Cristina Williams’ grandmother’s under some drywall.

Read more atBartow families picking up, moving on  | ajc.com.

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