Enterprise tornado victims honored with permanent memorial

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

Enterprise, AL (WSFA) – It's been more than three years since that deadly tornado tore through Enterprise.

It destroyed the high school and killed eight students as well as a nearby resident.

Sunday, the families of the victims joined the rest of the community to dedicate a memorial, ensuring their legacies will live on.

During that ceremony, there wasn't a dry eye in the crowd.

Dirk Strunk read the names of all eight students who died in that tornado, including his own daughter Katie.

He and his family joined the other seven to get the first look at the memorial.

Strunk said, "We didn't know any of the other parents before this happened, and we've all become real close, like a second family."

Among the families were two mothers whose sons had been best friends since the second grade.

They stood side by side, much like they did on March 1, 2007.

Laura Jackson, whose son A.J. was among the victims, said, "During the time of the tornado, as we stood together wondering where our boys were, we told the rescuers that if you find one of them, you'll find the other.  And sure enough, they were just a few feet away from each other."

Their son's pictures, like the other victims, are etched in bronze on the columns of the memorial.

Eight of those brick columns stand in a semi-circle around a wall of remembrance.

The memorial was constructed on the site of the third hall of the old high school—the exact spot where all eight students were killed.

Jackson said, "It just means a lot to me to know that this place will be here, and they will be memorialized.  It will be remembered that this is where they died."

Kathy Strunk, who lost her daughter, said, "When we pulled up in the parking lot this morning, I got really choked up remembering what happened that day.  It was a hard day for those of us who were left behind, but a wonderful day for those who went on to heaven."

It's the place where their worst nightmares as parents came true, but also the place they say their children became angels.

It's a reminder set in stone that these lives will never be forgotten.

The memorial was designed and constructed for free by Woodham and Sharpe Architects in Montgomery.

It is located on the campus of the recently constructed Hillcrest Elementary School, which was also destroyed in the tornado.

Meanwhile, construction of a new Enterprise High School is almost finished.

The $89 million dollar facility is expected to be ready for students this fall.

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