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After deadly twisters, devastated towns struggle to recover

Utility crews worked to restore power yesterday in Mena, Ark., where a tornado struck on Thursday, killing three people. Utility crews worked to restore power yesterday in Mena, Ark., where a tornado struck on Thursday, killing three people. (Mike Wintroath/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / April 13, 2009
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MENA, Ark. - Easter Sunday prayers were offered for victims of deadly twisters 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 yesterday 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 slowed relief efforts.