Faithful gather on Easter after deadly twisters

By JON GAMBRELL
Associated Press Writer

MENA, Ark. (AP) -- Easter Sunday prayers were offered for victims of deadly storms that hit western Arkansas and the Southeast last week with signs of damage done by a tornado evident throughout St. Agnes Church.

A stained-glass window gaped open in broken spots and rainwater leaked down the back of a display showing Christ being led to the cross. Even among the bread wafers offered for Holy Communion, a small twig stuck out - a remnant of the tornado Thursday night that blew through the Catholic parish and the rest of Mena, killing three people, injuring 30 more.

Despite the devastation in the small community, Bishop Anthony Taylor said he had no reservations in proclaiming that "God is good."

"Out of tragedy, really powerful things can occur," Taylor said. "God can use anything for his purposes."

Residents of Rutherford County in central Tennessee also were cleaning up Sunday from Friday's storms, which left two dead, seven hospitalized in critical condition, and more than 40 injured, according to officials.

A fund was set up for the Bryant family in Murfreesboro. Kori Bryant and her 9-week-old daughter, Olivia, were both killed, and husband John was hospitalized with a broken back, officials said.

In Arkansas, an early morning thunderstorm dumped torrents of rain on Mena, a Ouachita Mountain town of 5,700 people just across the state line with Oklahoma. The rain soaked electrical linesmen struggling to restore power in Polk County and ran down tarps over damaged roofs, seeping into exposed homes. James Reeves, the county's emergency management coordinator, said the rain left standing water in the county's dispatch center and ruined its remaining equipment.

The rain also slowed relief efforts - only 100 volunteers arrived Sunday morning to help with recovery efforts, down from the thousand who turned out the day before, Reeves said.

"We don't want to be forgotten about in a week or two," he said. "Unfortunately, it's going to be a long recovery for us."


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