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PUCKETT: Trenton a town that won't be stopped by a tornado

The Associated Press. Damaged homes are seen in Trenton on Thursday after overnight storms hit the North Georgia and Chattanooga, Tenn., area.

The Associated Press. Damaged homes are seen in Trenton on Thursday after overnight storms hit the North Georgia and Chattanooga, Tenn., area.

I grew up in a small town.

A beautiful map dot in a city of less than 2,000 people, nestled in the valley of two mountains.

It's the kind of place where neighbors are family, whether blood-related or not. Where people know your name and your parents' name as you walk down the street.

I lived there from birth until I graduated high school with more than a dozen of the same people I had started kindergarten with. A lot of those friends are still there with their families and with mine.

It's a town where kids spend Friday and Saturday nights at the ball fields or, like me, the tennis courts, or in the Ingles parking lot to see someone or be seen.

The entire school goes to every football game, every basketball game and to Huddle House afterward to eat. Kids played outside all day and could spend a Saturday afternoon hiking miles up the mountain, like I did as a teenager with my best friend, Lyndsey.

It's is a simple town known for nothing except maybe the '80s country group The Forester Sisters, or for seceding from the Union in 1860 and becoming an independent state for 85 years. The town doesn't really make headlines.

Until now.

I grew up in Trenton, Ga., where, at 5:50 p.m. Wednesday, a tornado devastated the city, killing two people, stretching 18 miles, leveling its main street and becoming "the worst storm we have ever experienced here in Dade County," according to Sheriff Patrick Cannon.

I watched helplessly from Buford as news reporters stood in what is left of Trenton, heartbroken for my friends. I've spent the last few days scanning the Internet and news media, looking at pictures and videos hoping to eventually recognize the town I once knew. On Thursday I finally found a picture of my friend Lyndsey's house, in the middle of the tornado's path, and, though very bruised, still standing. I can only imagine that my landmarks -- the ball fields, tennis courts, Ingles, Huddle House and so many more places filled with childhood memories, didn't fare so well.

My parents were more than lucky to have survived the storm with only a few downed trees. My 84-year-old grandmother, who lives 10 miles to the northwest in Lookout Valley, Tenn., and who hid in a closet during the storms, won't be able to live in her house for possibly months, if at all.

A cousin, who lived southwest in Henegar, Ala., spent Thursday recovering what she could from her yard and house, which was blown nearly 2,000 yards away across and down the street.

Since power is out there, landlines are down and cellphone service is limited, I don't know the extent of the destruction or how the people of Trenton are coping, but I know this:

It's the kind of town where every man and woman will spend months picking up their pieces and helping anyone they can. It's the kind of place where the only thing the people are prouder of than their family is their town. It's the kind of town that will only be stronger after this.

If you want to help Trenton or anyone affected by the storms, contact the Northwest Georgia Chapter of the Red Cross at 423-615-9324 or donate online at www.redcross.org, text REDCROSS to 90999 on your mobile phone to donate $10, or call 800-REDCROSS (800-733-2767).

Nicole Puckett is the graphics editor for the Gwinnett Daily Post. Email her at nicole.puckett@gwinnettdailypost.com.