Candles flickered at the old Hinkle Baptist Church on Sunday and many at the half-filled church expressed all they are thankful for after the terrible storm.
The same killer tornado that swept along much of the length of Sand Mountain, taking 32 lives, and claimed two more in Trenton, roared on to the rural outpost of Hinkle on Wednesday night.
No one was killed or seriously injured at Hinkle, but several homes were destroyed and there is a line of devastation stretching from Burkhalter Gap, past Vulcan to near Lula Lake, where the tornado jumped on down to wreck Flintstone, Ga.
Hutch Garmany, assistant pastor of the church that is now a branch of the Rock Creek Fellowship, said residents were amazed when about 50 Covenant College students showed up to help. Covenant had to dismiss students when the college was without power and water, but some students stayed around.
Pastor Garmany said, "The residents couldn't believe that college students would be out helping them."
He said he spotted one woman, whose home was heavily damaged, wearing a fresh new T-shirt that proclaimed, "I love Covenant students." He said, "I don't know where she got it."
A Covenant coed, who helps lead singing at the small church, said the Covenant community was amazed that the college on Jackson Hill was spared all the devastation. She said there was one tree down on campus.
She said, "A lot of prayers went up at the college."
She said over 600 offers came in for housing for the displaced students, "and some people were offering to drive students to Florida. It was all a huge testimony to God's mercy."
A woman told about being oblivious to the approaching disaster, then "having a strange feeling." She said she turned on a weather report and saw "a big red alert coming our way."
She said she quickly moved her boys to a safe area. During the storm they "heard thumping, then it got quiet."
She said her house was fine, but there was a tree across the back of her place. She said later a man showed up with four McCallie School middle schoolers. She said they cut up the tree, propped her fence back up and even raked the yard.
Lamar Massey, who lives behind the church, said he had been monitoring the storm with a weather radio and TV. He said he saw a terrific storm coming up from Gadsden, Ala., and said, "That's headed for us."
He said it arrived just over an hour later as he huddled in his basement with his wife, Marilyn, and one of their sons, along with some neighbors. He said, "I had never heard lightning like that before. Or maybe it was transformers popping."
His place and the church were just a short distance from the tornado's path.
A church member told of having close friends at Middleton Estates in Trenton, a subdivision where most of the houses were wiped out but no one was killed. He said he went to help, but found there was a phalanx of trees leading to his friend's house. He said his own chainsaw was puny. Then he said an Ooltewah man and his friend showed up with some powerful chainsaws and had the way clear in about four hours.
He said, "The goodness of people throughout all of this has just been unbelievable."
Pastor Eric Youngblood said the church plans to continue to minister to those who are in distress, including some without insurance. He said an ongoing effort is being planned to help the distressed neighbors rebuild.
He said, "We want to be of such service that this community will feel like it can't do without us."
The pastor, whose family refugeed to Signal Mountain after the power went out, said his own power came back on Saturday night. But much of Hinkle remains in the dark.