ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WECT) - It was on the ground for just a few minutes, but when a tornado touched down on April 16, 2011, in Bladen County, it left a disastrous aftermath. With winds estimated to be in excess of 140 miles per hour, the storm came through trees along North Carolina Hwy. 41, west of Elizabethtown, and ripped through the campus of First Baptist Church.
"It looked like a bomb had gone off, and it just about destroyed our campus," said First Baptist Church Minister Chris Carroll. "Trees were uprooted, trees were inside of cars, windows blown out, buildings collapsed. Your heart sank; you had never seen anything like that before, and you did not know what you were looking at, except a war-torn area."
Within an hour of the storm passing, people were at the church -- not just examining the damage, but beginning the cleanup process.
Fast forward to now, and there are still a few signs of where the tornado tore through. Some trees still have twisted limbs; some structures have not been repaired. Across the highway from the church, a house used to sit on a piece of land, but all that remains there today is the swimming pool.
But this story is more than just about rebuilding damaged structures. It is the story of people believing that something good actually happened as a result of the tornado. Before the tornado, opening a Christian school for young people was still years away from happening. The twister changed that.
"It did put it on the fast track by giving the church family the opportunity to look at other ministries that the community needed and they could foster," said Doctor Ron Montgomery, Headmaster of Elizabethtown Christian Academy. "It turned it into a great opportunity for His people, to share His love," said Doctor Montgomery.
"I have told people that the tornado was the worst thing that could happen to Elizabethtown Baptist Church, and it was the best thing that could have happened to Elizabethtown Baptist Church," said Carroll.
Mid-December is when Reverend Carroll expects all of the work to be finished, two-and-a-half years after that horrible spring afternoon in Bladen County that no one will ever forget.
Copyright 2013 WECT. All rights reserved.
322 Shipyard Boulevard