Hundreds attend first Whirlwind of Color 5K in Jacksonville
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Apr 27, 2013 | 5267 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Whirlwind of Color 5K Saturday morning in Jacksonville.  The event was a paint filled celebration of community  recovery from the April 27, 2011 tornadoes. (Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star).
A Whirlwind of Color 5K Saturday morning in Jacksonville. The event was a paint filled celebration of community recovery from the April 27, 2011 tornadoes. (Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star).
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Munford High School teacher Meighan Lewis and her students left their school early April 27, 2011, when officials warned of an impending tornado.

While the school was left unscathed, tornadoes ravaged many other areas of the state that day, including Calhoun County, resulting in multiple deaths and destroyed homes. All Lewis of Oxford could do at the time was watch the news.

"It was scary watching everything unfold," Lewis said.

Two years have passed since the tornado struck and the community has recoverd through the help of many volunteers, businesses and nonprofits. To celebrate that achievement, hundreds of people turned out in Jacksonville on Saturday to participate in the first Whirlwind of Color 5K.

The race, organized by the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, was also a way to raise money for the United Way of East Central Alabama, which helped considerably in the local tornado recovery efforts. United Way raised more than $10,000 from the event for its general fund.

"I do like to run, but I like too that we are helping," Lewis said.

Lewis said she and her school helped in the recovery in the days after the tornado hit Calhoun County.

"We did canned food drives and we had volunteers go out and help with the cleanup," she said.

The race began and ended at the Jacksonville Community Center. Splashes of various colors were visible everywhere, from runners' socks and shirts to multiple banners. Some women runners even wore colored tutus. At the end of the race, the runners were doused with multi-colored paint.

Matt Watkins of Jacksonville said he was not directly impacted by the 2011 tornado but vividly remembers the impact it had on the surrounding communities and families.

Watkins said he normally participates in many 5K events for the exercise.

"But I'm mainly here for the anniversary of the tornado," Watkins said of the Whirlwind 5K.

Virginia Griffin of Ohatchee had only participated in a few 5K races before and did not have a particular strategy about completing Saturday's event.

"My plan is to just have a good time and finish," Griffin said. "That's what we're here for, to enjoy it."

Griffin was in Ohatchee the day the tornado struck there two years ago, but was not impacted by it.

"I was about half a mile from where it hit," Griffin said.

Jennifer Griffin of Montgomery, Virginia's daughter, who also participated in the event, saw the damage in Ohatchee in the days just after the tornado.

"Just everything was gone," she said. "It had totally changed the landscape."

Virginia Griffin, who had lived through a tornado several years prior, convinced her husband to help with the April storm damage.

"I said we've got to help ... I was very distraught because I was in a tornado years ago ... he took his chainsaw that night and started cutting trees out of the road," she said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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