Garland Commemorates Tornado Victims, Survivors

For Natasha Briggs and her family, faith in God is the only thing that has gotten them through the past year.

"I'm really still trying to process it all," said Briggs.

On December 26, 2015, her sister Kimberly Tippett and her nephew Kamryn Crain were driving along Interstate 30 in Garland, when a powerful EF-4 tornado crossed their path, killing them and seven others.

Monday, they joined city leaders, survivors, and the families of the other victims at John Paul Jones park, not far from the highway, to commemorate the first anniversary of that horrific day.

Tears streamed down their faces as Garland Mayor Douglas Athas read each of the victims' names aloud.

"We haven't been back here since everything happened," said Briggs. "But we came because I'm just grateful for what the city is doing and how they've just been here for us. Knowing that we have that support, it just kind of gives me peace."

Michael and Carol Barnes also came to the ceremony looking for peace. The tornado tore through their neighborhood, destroying their house and every other house on their street.

They've spent much of the past year living in hotels and apartments -- finally moving back into their completely redesigned home last month.

"My daughters already said that they were not coming back home if the house remained the same because it would keep giving them a reminder of what happened the day after Christmas," said Carol Barnes. "My first night there, I could not sleep. I stayed up all night because I was so scared. You know, it just takes some getting used to."

Despite the challenges, they're optimistic things will get better.

City leaders echoed those sentiments, stressing that the hard work is far from done -- but also praising the city's resiliance for the progress that has been made.

And in that spirit, Athas closed the ceremony by unveiling a new plaque that will be permanently installed at the park. It contains a lengthy inscription that both honors tornado victims and survivors and acknowledges several new trees planted in the park -- a symbol that Garland is on the mend.

A plaque honoring the lives lost and the rebuilding of Garland after the tornado on Dec. 26, 2015 was unveiled at John Paul Jones Park.

In Rowlett, a ceremony will unveil a 30-foot-tall memorial sculpture. The event begins at 4 p.m. at Schrade Bluebonnet Park, located at 4701 Sunnybrook Drive, Rowlett.

At 6:30 p.m., Oasis Church at Lakeview will host a candlelight vigil. You can find it at 5026 Locust Grove Road, Garland, Texas 75043.

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