Riverbend Musician Arvel Bird's Wife Barely Survived Tornado

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Internationally acclaimed Native American flutist and violinist Arvel Bird is excited to return to Alabama for a small, intimate performance, at Globe Unplugged in Florence, Al. on Saturday at 5 p.m. From there he’ll return to Chattanooga where his wife ended up being transported after being buried in the rubble of a tornado damaged home in Ider, Al. Arvel will perform at the Riverbend Festival Wednesday, on Chattanooga’s 21st Century Riverfront on the Unum Stage from 6:45-8 p.m.

Arvel Bird is feeling blessed to be back on tour after his wife Kimberly Kelley miraculously survived the deadly tornado in Alabama on April 27. That evening, Arvel found himself driving into the active tornado area to reach his wife who was buried in the rubble of what was left of a friend’s home in Ider.

About 7 p.m. that evening, Kimberly, along with Frank Taylor and his family and Kimberly’s two dogs Candy and Coco, huddled in an interior bathroom as the F5 tornado forged a direct hit on the Taylor home. Minutes later, Kimberly gained consciousness to discover she was alive, but buried with other family members in the rubble.

“We were trapped under a collapsed wall, the fiberglass shower stall and an antique piano,” said Kelley of the experience. “From what I've heard, I was blown through the bathroom cabinet, an inside wall, and an outside wall. It is a miracle that all of us survived.” Her precious Shih Tzu Candy, however, perished in the tornado.

Family members and neighbors frantically dug to rescue everyone trapped in the home. “I am truly grateful to the neighbors, the Ider, Alabama Rescue Squad and Volunteers, the EMS members who transported us to the Chattanooga Erlanger ER, and especially Ider Mayor Mike Flynn who drove Coco to meet up with Arvel at the hospital. We owe them all so much,” said Kelley.

Arvel Bird was staying near Atlanta at the time, preparing for a four-day festival at the Georgia Frontier Days. When he received Kimberly's call just minutes after being rescued from underneath the rubble, he jumped in his car and headed toward the ravished tornado area. “I didn’t hesitate. Kimberly is one of the strongest women I know, but her voice told me all I needed to know that night. I just had to get to her side,” said Bird. “With the help of a friend who was watching the weather on Channel 2 in Atlanta, I was literally skirting the edges of the tornadoes as they swept through Alabama and Georgia as I drove to meet Kim in the emergency room in Chattanooga. I don’t think it really hit me what Kim had just been through until I went back to the site the next day to salvage what was left.”

Luckily, Kim did not have any broken bones, but was severely battered and bruised, with injuries to her neck, back, elbow, hips and pelvis. Her recovery has been slow, and walking is very painful, but she is improving a little each day.

“While this is a setback, we are blessed to have survived when others did not,” said Kelley. “I couldn't have done it without Arvel there at the hospital all 15 hours. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone who lost a loved one or who was injured in the tornadoes across the country that evening. An experience like this changes one’s life, and reminds us of the truly important things -- friends and family.”


Event To Support Troops Is Thursday

Friends of East Brainerd and the D.A.R. will be hosting an event to support troops on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Heritage House Arts and Civic Center, 1428 Jenkins Road.  This is a free event with special guest Lt. Radzyminski, who has just returned from a 10-month tour in Iraq.  Attendees are asked to please drop off items to be shipped overseas to our troops. Items ... (click for more)

Day On Capitol Hill With Rep. Favors Is March 14

The Annual Day on Capitol Hill in Nashville with Rep. JoAnne Favors will be held on Tuesday, March 14.  The price to attend is $20 and includes transportation and lunch.  Guests will begin boarding bus at 7 a.m. at the Kingdom Center parking lot across from Olivet Baptist Church (740 East M.L. King Blvd.).  The bus will depart at 7:30 a..m. and return ... (click for more)

Inmate Dies At County Workhouse On Wednesday Night; Investigation Underway

An inmate died at the county workhouse at Silverdale on Wednesday night, and an investigation is underway.   Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies/CID were called to investigate the death of an inmate at CoreCivic (formerly CCA).  The inmate was transported to a local hospital and was pronounced deceased at that time.     The identity of the ... (click for more)

Walker County Will Not Seek Land For Durham Railroad Trail From Couple Who Sought To Block It

Walker County, Ga., under a new administration, will not seek to condemn land from a couple along a proposed public trail on the old Chickamauga to Durham Railroad. Former County Attorney Don Oliver, who supported the trail idea, in the waning days of the Bebe Heiskell administration went to court to condemn property in the name of Stanley Lowe and Jill Wyse at the community ... (click for more)

Getting The Message

Our school age youth have inspired me with their responses during “Q and A” sessions after my readings as a volunteer during African American History Celebrations and Read across America Celebration, too.  Before this school year, I read to classes at Orchard Knob Elementary School and at Rivermont Elementary School, here in Hamilton County.   Their answers to factual ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Ed Chief ‘Embarrassed’

At the start of the school year in September, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education Dr. Candice McQueen held an “educational summit” with state legislators from embattled Hamilton County. The entire “summit” took a prescribed 90 minutes and was such a dog-and-pony show her strongest statement was, "Create your plan around the right vision, have some metrics and align to the right ... (click for more)